Depth to help keep Bears golden Wrestling: While other schools struggle to fill weight classes, Hammond seeks national recognition after winning four of the past five county titles.

December 03, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

After conquering most state and local challenges while establishing a dynasty in Howard County, the Hammond Golden Bears will tackle national-level wrestling competition this season.

The Bears will participate in a national tournament in Delaware on Dec. 19-20, despite graduating three first-team All-County wrestlers and losing 10-year veteran co-coach Jeff Starnes, who has taken a job in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Coach Bill Smith, who begins his 13th season at Hammond, is taking the team to the Mid-Atlantic Classic. Hammond, along with Rising Sun, will be the first two Maryland public schools to participate in the tournament thanks to a relaxation of state rules.

"Previously a state wrestler could wrestle only four matches in a day and six in a weekend, but they changed the rule and now allow five in a day and eight in a weekend," Smith said. "That's the way it has to be with 32 teams. This is probably the second-toughest tournament in the country next to the Iron Man in Ohio. It's a pretty big deal. They sell out all 8,000 seats and use eight mats, so it will make our state tournament seem relaxed.

"The top team from California, as well as the top teams from the East Coast will be there. Thirty-eight wrestlers ranked among the top five in the country by "USA Wrestling" magazine will be there."

Expected participants include Blair Academy of New Jersey, ranked No. 1 in the nation by "USA Wrestling," and Grundy from Virginia, a team that returns seven state champions. Calvert Hall and DeMatha are other Maryland participants.

"It will give us exposure to college scouts," Smith said. "A top-10 finish would be a major accomplishment."

The Bears have won four of the past five county tournaments and two straight dual-meet titles.

They figure to improve upon those streaks with a superlative squad that returns one Sun first-team All-County wrestler and four second-team All-County wrestlers.

Hammond is ranked No. 1 in the Maryland State Wrestling Association preseason rankings among Class 1A/2A schools. Two of their wrestlers are ranked among the top five in their weight classes.

Hammond, which won the state dual-meet title two years ago, was prevented from achieving state honors again last season by nemesis Lackey, which defeated the Bears in the dual meet regional finals. Hammond also finished second to Lackey in the regional tournament and fourth at the state tournament. The Bears went 15-2 in dual meets and both dual meet losses were to Lackey. They also lost to Lackey at the Hammond tourney but beat Lackey at the Lackey tourney. That was the only time that state Class 1A/2A state champion Lackey lost last season.

Hammond is 104-33-2 in dual meets over the past 10 years.

Smith said his team has great depth. The squad has 43 wrestlers -- the most in the county. And it will go four deep from 103 pounds to 140 pounds and three deep at 189 and heavyweight.

"From 152 to 171 we're a little light," he said. "But at three weight classes we have two very strong wrestlers.

He is pleased that five of his wrestlers chose to wrestle all summer regularly with the Headhunters, a club team that met twice a week under the tutelage of former Oakland Mills four-time county champion champion, Jeff Rosenberg. Those five include Scott Osborn, Dan Embrey, Vaymond Dennis, Ryan Mackin and Mark Read.

"The Headhunters step up against the best and wrestle from the end of states through the summer," Smith said. "And I think that will have a big impact on what you see this season."

Some other regulars in that Headhunters group included J. C. Porter and Jeff Carter of Long Reach, Brandon Lauer of River Hill, Kevin Sutton and Quinton Milroe of Oakland Mills, and Glenn Paik of Centennial.

Smith said that the Howard County Wrestling Association founded by River Hill's Earl Lauer and Marshall Dauberman is also having a positive impact on high school wrestling by introducing the sport at an early age.

"Long term that's going to have the biggest impact. They have an intramural program at nearly every high school and a travel team at River Hill," Smith said. "Before that club started, we went three years once with no freshman who had stepped on a mat before. Now we have five or six freshmen who wrestled junior league."

Smith also benefits from a great turnout by football players. He will have five this year, including Matt Nelson, Randy Curtin, Adam Clark, Kyle Peddicord and Embrey.

But he said that one of the key ingredients to Hammond's success is having a coach who teaches in the building and has been around awhile.

One of his assistants, Scott Farrow, also teaches at Hammond, and since the first basketball cut they have rounded up 10 more wrestlers for the junior varsity team.

"We're still getting kids out, and it's hard to do that if you are not working in the building," Smith said.

Only four of the 10 schools has a head wrestling coach teaching in its building -- Wilde Lake, Long Reach, River Hill and Hammond. Those four school also have the largest turnouts this season.

It doesn't help when school can't retain their coaches either. Four schools have new coaches this season, including Mount Hebron, Glenelg, Long Reach and Wilde Lake.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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