by Andrew Conrad
In a sport with no established legitmate professional level to speak of, and limited collegiate opportunities, a high school state championship is often considered the ultimate goal for a wrestler. To win one is the achievement of a lifetime.
River Hill sophomore Scott Mantua (103 pounds), Hammond senior Devon Gillett (119), Atholton senior Ryan Conroy (152) and Wilde Lake senior Zach Brown (215) all grasped the golden ring last Saturday at the state wrestling tournament at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.
Hammond senior Vince Taweel, who was trying to win his fourth state championship, was injured in the quarterfinals and had to default from the tournament. See story in this edition.
Glenelg, with three second-place finishes, two third-place finishes, and a fifth-place finish, was highest in the team competition in third. The county and regional champions scored 103.5 points in the Class 1A/2A tournament, just 7.5 points behind champion Rising Sun, the same team that knocked off Glenelg in the state dual semifinals. River Hill finished highest on the 3A/4A side, in 10th. See High School Wrap-up for more results.
Conroy had finished fourth and third in the last two state tournaments, citing a mental block in the semifinals. This year his focus was complete, as he defeated two wrestlers with a combined record of 70-1 in the quarterfinals and finals, and allowed only one takedown, in the entire tournament.
In the championship match, Conroy handed Middletown's Brandon Johnson his first loss of the season by scoring a takedown with 25 seconds left to break a 2-2 tie.
"During a tough match like that, there's a point where you've got to rely on your skill, you've got to rely on your technique, and you've got to rely on your endurance and training, but you've just got to pull it out from your heart," Conroy said.
Gillett won his second state championship by beating a familiar foe. For the fifth time this season Gillett squared off against Glenelg's Brian Marcoux, and for the third time, he has won. This time, Gillett scored an escape in the second period and held on for the entire third for the victory. Gillett scored his escape on a switch.
"I could always stand up to my feet, but he'd always throw me back down. Halfway through the stand up I tried a switch and it opened up a lot of room," said Gillett, who outscored his opponents by a combined, 28-4, shutting out three of them and only allowing points on let-ups.
Brown had one of the most dominant performances of any one wrestler in the tournament, finishing the season as the county's only undefeated wrestler. His closest call came in the semifinals when he gave up the first takedown to Thomas Wootton senior Andy Rampp.
For just over 60 seconds, Brown was actually losing.
"When he got the first takedown, I was like 'Man, it's gonna be a match, you've got to pull it through Zach. Let's go,' " said Brown who came back to win, 10 -4.
It was only the second time this season Brown has allowed a takedown, he said.
In the state tournament Brown used a staggering combination of speed, strength, and technique to make every opponent bend to his will.
"Zach's better on his feet than he's ever been, he's hard to stop and he's so fast," coach Everett Elliott said.
Mantua had only lost one match this season, to Centennial's Jack Western, in the regional semifinals.
"It took some pressure off him, for not having to go undefeated. Now it was just about wrestling the match that was in front of him; it helped him refocus," coach Brandon Lauer said.
Mantua defeated Arundel's Nicole Woody in the championship match, 6-2. Woody was the first female in Maryland history to reach the championship match.
"She takes the lead and she can hold the lead very well. I was just trying not to go down at all during the match; that was my main goal, to get the first takedown," Mantua said.
River Hill sophomore Nathan White (119), and Glenelg juniors Chris Stinnett (125) and Danny Bichner (130) finished second., along with Marcoux. Glenelg freshman Brendan Conway (103) and junior Tim Chase (171), and Mt. Hebron senior Tyler Girch (130) and Atholton senior Ross Lewin (140) all finished third.
E-mail Andrew Conrad at Andrew Conrad@patuxent.com