Carver A&T's Sam Pellerito and Digital Harbor's Adikola Oliganju and Elton Joe made history Saturday at the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association's 2A-1A North regional wrestling tournament when they became the first competitors in the history of their schools to win regional championship titles.
Owings Mills won its 16th regional team title with five individual wrestlers taking weight-class crowns - Demetrius Johnson (119), Jordan Trujillo (140), Taran Carr (145), Larry Johnson (160) and Abe Tadros (215). The Eagles took first, with 193 points. Digital Harbor was second, with 92.5, and Sparrows Point was third, with 91.
"It was very satisfying to win," said Oliganju, a Digital Harbor senior who pinned his 130-pound opponent in 2:38. "I had never wrestled him [Western Tech's Stefen Towler]. To win by pin, it took strength, style and technique. To win for my school, it's like an honor. I came in thinking I had to do whatever it took to win."
It was the attitude of all the competitors, but only 14 of them could claim regional titles and only Owings Mills, Digital and Carver Vo-Tech (2) had more than one.
The top four competitors in each weight class advance to the state tournament next Friday and Saturday at the University of Maryland in College Park, while the fifth- and sixth-place finishers advance as alternates.
"This was a good tournament," said Owings Mills coach Guy Pritzker. "I think all the teams are getting a lot better talent. The Carver teams [A&T and Vo-Tech] and Digital Harbor getting those individual weight class titles helps those programs.
"It's good to see them succeed. Especially the coaches in the city - they work harder than any coaches around. They have to use their own money, pick up and drop off kids for practice. The county schools have some money, the private school kids have everything. The city school coaches deserve a lot of credit because they really put the kids first. Now, they're reaping a little reward."
When Evert Elliott took over the coaching job at Carver A&T program in Baltimore County three years ago, he had three varsity wrestlers. When Pellerito, a freshman with a 26-6 record won, the joy was obvious.
"He's a great kid," said Elliott. "It's great having him in the wrestling room and this performance was great for Carver. We can't wait for next week. Sam's pretty excited."
The excitement was the same at Digital Harbor where Shawn Edinger, in his sixth year, has built the Digital program from six students to 20.
"It's a great feeling to see these kids win," said Edinger. "It's incredible to see them achieve something they've worked so hard for. But I told them before their matches that as a coach I won a long time ago when they were accepted into college. A lot of coaches just want to win, but the job of a coach is to build them into men and then get them into school."