1997-98 Arundel County wrestling previews

December 03, 1997|By Glenn P. Graham and Pat O'Malley

Annapolis Area Christian Eagles

1996-97 record: 10-2

Coach: Dick Bitzer, ninth season.

Top wrestlers: Jake Palumbo, Jr., 119; Jeff Beans, Sr., heavyweight (275); Brian Mahaffey, Jr., 125; Luke Palumbo, Fr., 103; Alex Bitzer, Fr., 135.

Outlook: Moving up to the MIAA A conference with schools like Mount St. Joseph, Bitzer is confident his Eagles can compete. "This will definitely be the toughest schedule we've had in our nine years of wrestling, but we've got a good group of young wrestlers," he said. The Eagles took 12th place in last weekend's 22-team Catholic Invitational. Jake Palumbo (21-11), Beans (13-11), who was fifth in the Catholic tournament, and Mahaffey (16-16) are counted on to be leaders for a promising group of ninth-graders led by Luke Palumbo, who was third in the Catholic tournament. Bitzer was a member of the powerhouse junior team, the Arden Attackers. "This is the first time we've gotten a group of kids with junior-league experience," Dick Bitzer said. Add Dustin Coombe (112) and Aaron Spindler (140) to the list of freshmen with junior-league experience.

Annapolis Panthers

1996-97 record: 1-10-1

Coach: Dave Gehrdes, 17th season

Top wrestlers: Dan Hemminger, Jr., 105/112; Andrew Hemminger, Jr., 142/145; Jeff Childs, Sr., 152/160; Mike Breslin, Jr., 135/140; Steve Gioffre, Jr., 171.

Outlook: Gehrdes has quality wrestlers in the Hemminger twins, part of quadruplets (also twin sisters). Dan and Andrew were second-team All-County and are expected to vie for county titles. Dan (25-5) was second at 103 last season and may move up to 112. Andrew (26-6), third in the state tournament at 135, jumps to 142 or 145. Childs, fourth in the region, is the only senior. "We should be better with some outstanding kids, but just not enough overall," said Gehrdes, who is preparing for this weekend's Annapolis Tournament that includes such powers as Mount St. Joseph, DeMatha and Old Mill.

Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers

1996-97 record: 4-7

Coach: Frank Buckland, second season

Top wrestlers: John Seitz, Sr., 135; Jason Heffernan, Jr., 145; Ben Ferguson, Sr., 189; Chris Page, Jr., 112/119; Nick Dacheax, Jr., 103; Andre Hussey, Soph., 135; Tom Hartka, 112/119, Sr.; Frank Pryor, Jr., 130.

Outlook: After leading the Cavaliers to their first tournament victories and the state B title for private schools, Buckland is enthusiastic with the return of 16 and the addition of two transfers. Two second-team All-County wrestlers in Seitz (28-11) and Heffernan (34-10), tabbed by the coach as "our top gun," lead the seasoned group. Also back are Hartka (27-8), Ferguson (27-14)and Pryor, who was 8-19 as a 10th grader, but he has "dramatically improved," Buckland said. Transfers Page (DeMatha) and Dacheax (Glen Burnie) are welcome additions. "We have a good shot at a winning record if our middle weights come through," said Buckland, who shared county coach of the year honors with Arundel's Buddy Hepfer last season. Buckland is the first Cavs' coach to return since Jim Nemeth ran the team for eight years before stepping down in 1995. Nemeth led the Cavs to their last winning season in 1993-94 at 4-2.

Arundel Wildcats

1996-97 record: 18-0

Coach: Buddy Hepfer, 28th season

Top wrestlers: Pat Ortman, Jr., 119; Graham Harris, Sr., 140/145; Brian Schroeder, Sr., 125; Rob Connelly, Sr., 160; Jeff Blachly, Jr., 189; Trevor Baumgartner, Sr., 189/heavyweight; Greg Klingler, Jr., 112; Pat Crouse, Jr., 130.

Outlook: What do the undefeated, 3A-4A dual-meet state champions do for an encore? "We don't have any individual state champions on this team, but if we get the lineup we want, we should be a solid team," Hepfer said. He is the dean of county coaches and is concerned despite a preseason rank of No. 1. If some of his certifications in the lower weights don't work out, Hepfer foresees a 12-point negative swing. Last season, the Wildcats set a county tournament record for points (241) topping runner-up Old Mill by 68 points and won its ninth region title under Hepfer (247-86-5), a member of the Maryland Wrestling Hall of Fame. All-County selections Ortman (26-10, 12 pins, county champ) and Harris (31-4, county and region champ) give the Wildcats a solid chance at an encore. Two second-team All-County wrestlers in Schroeder (22-11, seven pins) and Connelly (28-4, 16 pins) add to the depth along with Blachly, who is recovering from a football injury and will go at 189 or heavyweight with Baumgartner either or. Hepfer is also looking for big things from junior Shannon Weber, who was a junior varsity county champion last season. "I know everybody is talking about us, but Old Mill is the team to beat with all their experienced wrestlers, " Hepfer said.

Broadneck Bruins

1996-97 record: 7-4

Coach: Fred Yelton, first season

Top wrestlers: Dan Cates, Sr., 125; Brad Cunningham, Jr., 145; ++ Andrew Wilkinson, Jr., 171; Todd Sebroski, Jr., 135; Jake Dove, Fr., 112.

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