Damascus wins 4A/3A West Region by Nick Cammarota Staff writer
As has been the case throughout the Montgomery County high school wrestling season, Damascus High School once again proved it was the team to beat Saturday during the Class 4A/3A West Region tournament at Sherwood High School.
But the Swarmin’ Hornets won’t be sending the most wrestlers to the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House for next week’s state tournament among county teams. That honor belongs to Walter Johnson.
“I’m thrilled. I’ve never sent seven wrestlers to states in the time I’ve been here,” Wildcats coach Tom Wheeler said.
The Wildcats managed to advance seven (one first, three third, three fourth) wrestlers to Friday and Saturday’s tournament. Damascus and Thomas S. Wootton will send six and Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Springbrook will send five. The Barons finished with three individuals champions (Charlie Banaszak, Justin Elwell and Jesse McNeill), tops among participating teams, while Northwest, Walt Whitman, Damascus and Wootton all featured two champs.
Damascus locked up the team title with 145 points, while Wootton finished second with 129. The victory ensures that the Swarmin’ Hornets will enter the state tournament unbeaten in all tournaments and dual meets they’ve wrestled this season.
“This time of the year, a lot of kids, they’re done,” Damascus coach John Furgeson said. “We’re trying to keep them focused and ready to go. They impressed the heck out of me [today]. That’s what high school sports are all about, but we’ve got another big fish to catch. It’s going to be a lot harder.”
Furgeson lauded the efforts of his 126-pounder Cory Obendorfer, who competed despite suffering a severely sprained ankle in the county tournament. Furgeson said Obendorfer couldn’t walk on Friday night, but the sophomore still managed to place fourth and earn a spot at states.
“That’s what our future looks like. A group of young guys willing to do whatever it takes to help the team out. He was a warrior, a gladiator for us,” Furgeson said.
In that aforementioned 126-pound weight class, a path for Walt Whitman freshman Mitch Fenton to win a championship opened up after B-CC’s Sean Cohen suffered a concussion last week and couldn’t participate in the tournament. Fenton capitalized on the opportunity and beat Springbrook senior Kris Harrington, 10-3, in a dominant final match.
“I feel amazing. I just can’t describe it. It feels great,” said the starry-eyed freshman who has been wrestling for 10 years.
One week removed from the Montgomery County tournament, a few finals matchups pitted the same wrestlers against one another, but yielded a different result.
Seneca Valley’s Kellen Staton downed Paint Branch’s Malik Kelly in the 160-pound final, 4-2, after losing to Kelly, 7-4, last weekend. At 170, Wootton’s Stephen Potemken exacted revenge against Damascus’ Caleb Baisden with a thrilling 6-3 win that included a furry of third-period scoring and another handful of close calls.
“I stayed in the tie-ups more and that messed up his shooting,” Potemken said. “The past two years, I got second in everything. To finally win one feels great.”
The 106-, 120-, 138-, 182-, 220- and 285-pound finals all featured rematches from counties as well, but those went the way of the county champions. Ralph Bernardo (Wootton’s 195-pounder) and Luis Beteta (Northwest’s 220-pounder) will enter the state tournament with perfect records, as both won regional titles in convincing fashion. Bernardo was one of three wrestlers to win their match via fall, the others being Sherwood’s Chris Minor and B-CC’s Elwell. The Barons’ Charlie Banaszak beat Damascus’ Owen Brooks for a third consecutive time to earn his first West Region title.
“It’s really exciting to get my first regional title, but [winning] states is the ultimate goal. I’m really excited to be seeded as the No. 1 seed,” Banaszak said.
Minor’s victory against B-CC’s Will Witkop at 132 was one of the more exciting matches of the evening. After trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, Minor recorded an early escape and said he “knew he needed a takedown” to win. With roughly 20 seconds remaining and a raucous crowd of Sherwood supporters screaming, Minor executed his takedown and more. He pinned Witkop with 12 seconds remaining in the match and was later engulfed by the adoring mob.
“When I went to take him down and I heard them all yelling, it made me try even harder and squeeze even harder to try to pin him,” Minor said.”It feels great. Last week, I was really down on myself [after finishing fifth]. I knew I needed to come out on top in this regional tournament.”
To round out the night, Walter Johnson heavyweight Innocent Okocha defeated Wootton’s Josh Strauss, 3-2 in triple overtime — the same score and result as the two had at the county tournament.
The state tournament begins at 2:30 p.m., Friday and continues through Saturday evening’s finals, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30.
4A/3A West Region tournament championship round
106: Mikey Macklin (Damascus) d. Kevin Cristobal (Springbrook), 8-3
113: Nick Davis (Northwest) d. Quy Tran (Springbrook), 5-1
120: Michael Wilkerson (Damascus) d. Kyle Bollinger (Quince Orchard), 8-3
126: Mitch Fenton (Walt Whitman) d. Kris Harrington (Springbrook), 10-3
132: Chris Minor (Sherwood) f. Will Witkop (Bethesda-Chevy Chase), 5:48
138: Charlie Banaszak (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) d. Owen Brooks (Damascus), 8-2
145: Justin Elwell (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) f. Andrew Conine (Col. Zadok Magruder), 4:37
152: Jack Calder (Walt Whitman) d. KC Hill (Paint Branch), 3-2
160: Kellen Staton (Seneca Valley) d. Malik Kelly (Paint Branch), 4-2
170: Stephen Potemken (Thomas S. Wootton) d. Caleb Baisden (Damascus), 6-3
182: Jesse McNeill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) d. Chen Han (Thomas S. Wootton), 3-1
195: Ralph Bernardo (Thomas S. Wootton) f. Nelson Reyes (Quince Orchard), 1:13
220: Luis Beteta (Northwest) d. Connor Tilton (Quince Orchard), 4-2
285: Innocent Okocha (Walter Johnson) d. Josh Strauss (Thomas S. Wootton), 3-2 (3OT)
1. Damascus 145
2. Thomas S. Wootton 129
3. Bethesda-Chevy Chase 106
4. Walter Johnson 96
5. Springbrook 92
6. Quince Orchard 74
7. Northwest 67
8. Sherwood 62.50
9. Walt Whitman 55
10. Paint Branch 50.50
11. Col. Zadok Magruder 45
12. Winston Churchill 35
13. North Hagerstown 30
14. Montgomery Blair 28
15. South Hagerstown 26
16. Seneca Valley 23
17. Watkins Mill 19
18. James Hubert Blake 11
19. Gaithersburg 9
19. Richard Montgomery 9
21. Northwood 6
22. Albert Einstein 4