Trip back to the top

Traditional powerhouse North Carroll won't make the state finals, but wrestlers fueled by school's history help restore luster



It has been eight days since North Carroll's top wrestler, Tom Goretsas, was sidelined by a weigh-in interpretation at the state duals, taking down with him the Panthers' plans for a state championship.

Despite the setback, Goretsas and his teammates are doing their best to look ahead to next weekend's county individual championships, and then to the state individual championships, secure in the knowledge that they have played a role in reviving a sport that is important in the North Carroll community.

North Carroll was often a shoo-in to win the county duals and county tournament titles under then-coach Dick Bauerlein through the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Panthers also had several near-misses for a state title during that period.

In Bauerlein's final season, 1994, they won the 2A-1A state duals title and were ranked as high as No. 2 by the Maryland State Wrestling Association. They also held their own with then-five-time defending 4A-3A state champion Old Mill during that period, ending the Patriots' 30-match dual meet winning streak in '93.

After years of being the standard-bearer in the county, North Carroll had become more vulnerable in recent years and on some occasions slipped behind programs such as South Carroll and Francis Scott Key. Goretsas said it has felt good to be part of the class that has brought back the winning tradition.

"North Carroll has had a really good history in wrestling," said Goretsas, a senior who wrestles at 130 or 135 pounds. "That's what North Carroll is. Knowing that, coming in four years ago, that helps me a lot. It helps me drive through a lot, too."

Like the disappointing weigh-in. A wrestler can compete in only one weight class higher than his weight. Goretsas weighed in at 126.3 pounds, which qualified him for the 125-pound weight class (actually 127 with the two-pound weight allowance). However, he tried to wrestle at 135 pounds. Since the next highest weight he could have competed at was 130, rules interpreter Bruce Malinowski determined Goretsas was too light to wrestle at 135.

North Carroll (16-1) lost for a second straight year to Damascus (17-1) in the semifinals of the 4A-3A state duals. The Panthers were ahead, 21-19, with five bouts left when the weigh-in controversy occurred.

Goretsas called the weigh-in incident "unfortunate, but we'll get over it. We'll be OK."

Goretsas, 25-1, is the leader of a strong team. Said 125-pound teammate Ronnie Seipp, "He's by far the best wrestler in school right now, and he gets us motivated for big matches."

Goretsas said he uses personal motivation to make it through the rough grind of daily practices.

"My drive comes from myself. My goal is to win a state championship, and knowing the glory that it is to have one just keeps me going and pushing through," he said. "As a team, we've worked hard all year. We wanted to get back to state duals. We made it there. We wanted a state dual championship, but it just didn't work out."

Added Seipp: "There's not a weak part in our lineup. Our team makes us motivated. There's not a day we go in that room and we slack. We work our butts off every day we step in that room."

Seipp believes that every wrestler has the swagger that past Panthers carried.

"Even if you're not in the starting lineup, you feel like you're part of something in the school, and that's hard to beat," Seipp said. "There's only [three] teams in the 4A-3A class that made it to where we made it. There's not much more to say. You have to feel good about yourself."

When North Carroll Coach Dave Dodson was asked to describe Goretsas, he said, "Intense. It's like he's turned a switch on."

Dodson said his team turned it on, too, returning strong this season after having to fill several spots in the upper-weight divisions because of graduation.

"The kids worked extremely hard and have been able to accomplish a lot. Winning the county, the league, and then the 4A-3A regional, I think it's a tribute to the kids what they've been able to accomplish," Dodson said.

Dodson said the most satisfying accomplishments have been winning the county team championship and the regional dual meet title with a victory over Urbana.

On restoring the pride the Panthers had under Bauerlein, Dodson said, "We've just tried to instill in them that we wanted it to be the way it was back then. I mean, there's tradition here and we want to maintain that tradition. There's expectations here for it."

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