Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Damascus still dominates

E-mail this article \ Print this article

And still the undisputed heavyweight of county dual-meet squads ... Damascus High.

Well, OK, the Swarming Hornets still have a ways to go to make that claim again this season but with an impressive tri-meet sweep of county Division III foes Northwest (34-30 score) and Quince Orchard (44-24 score) on Saturday, they look poised once again to carry that mantle.

Damascus clearly separated itself from the pack the past two years, going undefeated against county competition en route to back-to-back 4A-3A West Region dual-meet crowns. In fact, through the week’s sweep, the Swarmin’ Hornets had dropped just one match to a county opponent in the last three-plus seasons, falling, 39-34, to Whitman in a regional dual-meet final in 2004-05.

They won their first five matches of this season as well with the narrow victory against host Northwest being perhaps the most competitive and thrilling one thus far.

‘‘Those kids went out there and gave it to us from the beginning,” said Damascus coach Dave Hopkins of Northwest, which cut a 28-6 deficit to a point with one match remaining before falling to the Hornets. ‘‘Thank God we got a few breaks here and there and our kids kept coming back. We’re kind of open in some weight classes. We’re going to have to work on filling those gaps. They were tough.”

In a chess match between two of the county’s best coaches —Hopkins and Jaguars coach Joe Vukovich — Damascus captured five of the first seven matches, including two strategic forfeits by Vukovich to save wrestlers for what he deemed more favorable match-ups in the upper weights.

Nolan Critter (147 pounds), Fred Stephenson (162), Brian Wittenberger (173), Steve Richards (217) and Josh Frederick (287) secured those early victories. Critter and Richards worked pinned of Steven Tran and Anton Mursin in 2 minutes, 22 seconds and 4:37, respectively, while Stephenson and Wittenberger received forfeits. Frederick scored a 13-1 major decision against Jaguars heavyweight Audie Whitaker.

Jacob White scored a 9-6 decision against Zeke Gammill at 154 pounds and Greg Hamilton eked out a 13-12 win against Levi Gammill at 191 pounds for Northwest’s six early points. Hamilton was awarded the winning point with eight seconds remaining when Levi Gammill was called for locked hands.

‘‘When you come down to a close dual, it comes down to match-ups,” said Vukovich, whose team moved to 6-2 with Saturday’s split, which included a 45-30 win against the Cougars (5-3) ‘‘Who you want to wrestle who. Things went our way in some match-ups and things didn’t go our way in other matches. We lost to a better team today.”

The Jaguars, however, closed the gap by winning five of the next six matches, trimming the lead to 31-30. Donte Slaughter (105) started the turnaround with a pin of Billy Kitterman in 22 seconds and Page Sevilla (114) followed with a pin of Dallas Parron in 1:23.

At 127 pounds, Danny Aguilera worked a 9-2 decision against Bobby Velisek; Sam Turow (132) pinned Marty Higgins in 1:48 and Sean McCarty (137) secured a 3-0 decision against Shane Boyd to set up the final match at 142 pounds.

Tucked in between those numerous Northwest victories was a huge 5-4 decision by Damascus’s Chase Sellman against Michael Henning, who are two of the best wrestlers at 121 pounds. Sellman’s win allowed Damascus to hold the lead and took some of the pressure off Eddie Obendorfer at 142 pounds, allowing him to secure a simple decision for the team victory.

‘‘I’ve faced him a lot,” said Sellman, who clinched the win with a takedown with 1:34 left in the match. ‘‘I just worked my hardest this week because I knew I was going to face him. I just worked all my moves I could.”

After McCarty slipped past Boyd, Obendorfer opened up a 5-1 first period lead on a takedown down and a three-point near fall against Tyler Luckett en route to a 6-2 decision for the 34-30 team victory.

‘‘I knew I had to win it for us to win so I couldn’t let my team down,” said Obendorfer, whose squad opened Saturday with a 44-24 victory against Quince Orchard. ‘‘I just went out there and did my best move.”

While Damascus moved ever close to a top seed in the upcoming regional playoffs and Northwest remained in contention, the Cougars’ chances for a postseason berth took a big hit with tough matches against Magruder and Springbrook looming in the near future.

‘‘It was tough,” first-year Cougars coach Chris Tao said. ‘‘Damascus is loaded with seniors and they have really top notch wrestlers where we are strong. It came down to one, two, three-point losses and they kept the momentum going.‘‘

Heavyweight Terrance Stephens was the team’s lone bright spot, securing pins in both of his matches. Dake Williams (217) tumbled from the ranks of the unbeaten through an 11-2 loss to Damascus’s Frederick.

Notes: Damascus senior Shane Boyd, who won his 100th career wrestling match last week, recently committed to play baseball at Frostburg State University. The hard-hitting outfielder batted .490 with 21 runs batted in, 25 runs and 12 doubles to earn second-team All-Gazette honors in the spring of 2007.