Despite new faces, Owings Mills maintains its elite status quo

Expecting tough year, Eagles now have won 61 consecutive matches


High Schools

February 09, 2005|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Ryan Nash, Eric Vinores and Mike Kessler were convinced they would be part of a rebuilding effort in their final season as wrestlers at Owings Mill High School.

Eight starters were graduating, including state champs Rob Cooper, Sasha Binder and state runner-up Eric Fishel, from a squad that won its sixth 2A-1A state title last March.

"We were figuring on a tough year with a lot of holes in the lineup," said Nash, who placed fifth at states, while Vinores and Kessler placed fourth and second, respectively.

"Our goal this year was to win as many matches as possible," said coach Guy Pritzker, who's in his 23rd year. "We never thought that at this point we'd be undefeated and hosting the regionals."

But eighth-ranked Owings Mills has maintained its status among the state's elite, thanks to leadership from the aforementioned trio and contributions from a combination of last year's reserves, junior varsity call-ups and three former junior league standouts.

The Eagles take a 14-0 record and a 61-match winning streak into tonight's 2A-1A North region duals semifinal against 10th-ranked Harford Tech. The winner will take on the victor of the Hereford-Edgewood matchup for the regional championship.

Owings Mills edged Harford Tech, 29-27, for last year's regional crown. A similar effort could earn Owings Mills its 10th regional duals title and a berth in Saturday's state duals championships at Charles County's LaPlata High, where the Eagles would try to add a fourth straight state duals crown to last year's unprecedented third.

"People didn't expect us to be where we are," said Nash, who is ranked No. 2 by The Sun at 135 pounds with a 24-3 record. "We've surprised everyone - even ourselves."

Returning starters Wonjin Cha (112) and Will Norat (275) have records of 18-7 and 22-4. Shane Horneberger (145), Mike Randall (171) and Nteke Mulenga (215) - role players a year ago - have respectable marks of 15-4, 17-6 and 14-10.

Former junior leaguers Cody Rosenstone (103), Tony Mack (119) and Ben McCree (160) are 20-5, 15-1 and 24-2, respectively, and former junior varsity performers Andrew Gothelf (125), Nick Corasaniti (130) and Tom Parks (189) add depth to a team with only one wrestler with a losing record.

Pritzker (333-44 career record) takes pride in the team's unity, diversity and mix of veterans and lesser-experienced wrestlers. For example, longtime wrestlers Vinores (140) and Kessler (152) drew Cha, a lifelong friend, to the sport as freshmen.

"Wonjin never wrestled before high school. He came out to be with his friends," said Vinores, who is 24-1 and ranked No. 1 in The Sun at his weight. "There's a bond on our team. No one is out just for himself."

Kessler's quest to win a state title has become a team goal, Vinores said. The youngest of four siblings, Kessler (25-0) has placed at states all four years, but has not joined older brothers Kevin, 34, Gregg, 30, and Steve, 26 - winners a combined eight state titles.

This year's Eagles "were kind of selfish and separated" at the season's outset, Nash said. "But the turning point," he said, was an eighth-place finish at last month's tough Mount Mat Madness tournament, where Kessler, Vinores and Nash were first, third and fourth, respectively, and Mack also was third.

At MMM, Kessler beat private schools champ Bryn Holmes (McDonogh), Nash defeated state runner-up Chad Cotterman (Walkersville) and Vinores edged conference champ Alex Ward (Mount St. Joseph) - benchmark wins for all three.

"Then we beat Hereford in a match that came down to Cody's bout," said Nash, referring to Rosenstone's victory that earned Pritzker's 16th Baltimore County 2A-1A division crown. "We've come together in realizing what we have to do to try to win states."

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