COLLEGE PARK - Hammond coach Pedro Barbosa stood in the center of his wrestlers on Thursday and asked them for one more weekend of excellence.
The Golden Bears (26-0) had already won county, region and state duals titles, along with county and region tournament titles. But they carried with them injuries and illness.
"Gentlemen, we have faced adversity before and we have overcome it," Barbosa said at the end of a hard practice. "Just give me one more great performance this weekend, one more time."
So far, Hammond's team has responded to Barbosa's demand, placing four wrestlers in the semifinals at the Class 2A-1A state wrestling tournament yesterday at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House and leading the field with 52 points.
Hammond advanced Ethan Cohen (119 pounds), Zach Halper (125), Vince Taweel (130) and Steve Sessa (189) to the semifinals, guaranteeing those wrestlers placement at the tournament. Taweel, a sophomore, is attempting to repeat as state champion.
Second-place Owings Mills (47.5 points) also advanced four wrestlers: Ryan Nash (135), Eric Vinores (140), Mike Kessler (152), and Ben McCree (160).
Kessler, a four-time region champion, is seeking his first state title after placing second, third and fifth at the event.
Third-place Harford Tech (44.5 points) advanced four wrestlers: Mark Taylor (103), Mike Long (125), Matt Kahl (145) and Josh Taylor (160). Fourth-place Francis Scott Key (43.5 points) advanced three wrestlers to the semifinals: Reuben Gill (119), Luke Schuster (189) and Tom Rush (215).
In the upset of the quarterfinals, Century's Alex Grassi (112) knocked off undefeated Rising Sun freshman Matt Jackson, 3-2.
Western Tech's Jade Hendricks (103) became the first female to compete in the 2A-1A state tournament. She posted an 0-2 record after qualifying for the event by placing fourth in the north region tournament.