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Damascus wrestlers McLaughlin, Lawrence earn first, second state crowns

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Damascus’ Ryan Lawrence defeated Sparrows Point’s Skyler Minutelli in the 145lb Class 2A/1A final match in the State Wrestling Championships. PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITH Damascus’ Ryan Lawrence defeated Sparrows Point’s Skyler Minutelli in the 145lb Class 2A/1A final match in the State Wrestling Championships. PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITH  UPPER MARLBORO — Junior Johnny McLaughlin and senior Ryan Lawrence of Damascus had diverging perspectives after winning respective 126- and 145-pound Class 2A-1A state titles in Monday’s season-ending tournament at The Show Place Arena.

McLaughlin (41-6), a two-time county champion, already is gearing up for next season after handling previously unbeaten junior regional champion Ryan Wagener (42-1) of Baltimore County’s Eastern Tech 7-2 for his initial championship after twice being a third-place finisher at states.

A county runner-up as a sophomore, McLaughlin was eight days removed from a 7-5 victory over the previous year’s state title-winner Travis Crawford of South Carroll for his third straight regional crown.

“‘Don’t get third again’ – that’s all I repeated to myself coming into this,” said McLaughlin. “So this feels really good after my freshman and sophomore seasons, and I wanna do the same thing again next year.”

But Lawrence (48-0) proclaimed himself “done with this sport forever” after rolling through his first round and quarterfinal opponents on pins in 37 seconds, 1:34, blanking his semifinal rival 7-0 and hammering senior regional champion Skyler Minutelli (42-4) of  Sparrows Point 11-3 for his second straight title after having placed third as a sophomore.

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Harris completes long journey from Ethiopia to become Jaguars’ third state champion,

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Northwest’s Yonas Harris defeats Jagger Clapsadle of Stephen Decatur in the 106lb match of the Class 4A/3A State Wrestling Championships. PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITH Northwest’s Yonas Harris defeats Jagger Clapsadle of Stephen Decatur in the 106lb match of the Class 4A/3A State Wrestling Championships. PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITH  UPPER MARLBORO — When Yonas Harris smiles, as the Northwest senior did following Monday’s dramatic come-from-behind, 7-5 overtime victory that secured his 106-pound Class 4A-3A state championship over Stephen Decatur sophomore Jagger Clapsadle, there is a bright glow complimenting his bleached-blond hair, lighting up the gym at Show Place Arena.

But Harris’ joy in the aftermath of a definitive accomplishment, culminating just four years of exposure to wresting, belies the journey he has endured from an impoverished section of his native Kombolcha, Ethiopia.

It is a pilgrimage best described in the perfect diction of words from the young man who experienced it.

“I was adopted from Ethiopia at the age of nine. I came to America because both of my parents had passed away, and it was a very impoverished area. Once I got here, I was adopted by Lisa Harris, a loving, single mother who took really good care of me,” said Harris, who has a B-average and a record of 46-1.

“After two years of speaking English, I was already taking AP classes and was able to get my grades up. The entire process was a difficult transition due to some of the trauma from my past, but I don’t feel sorry for myself, and I don’t want anyone else to feel sorry for me.”

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Damascus gains redemption and third state title

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Damascus completed a weekend of redemption during the March 3-4 Class 4A-3A state tournament at The Show Place Arena, where three of its six state place winners overcame setbacks from a week earlier to lead the Swarmin’ Hornets to their third straight and sixth overall state title in Upper Marlboro of Prince George’s County.

Led by Penn State-bound senior Scottie Obendorfer (132), who avenged an earlier loss to win his second crown in three years, the Swarmin’ Hornets (123.5 points) overcame runner-up Urbana (99 points) of Frederick County.

A state champion as a sophomore who was runner-up last year, Obendorfer had lost his regional title bout, 6-1, to Walter Johnson’s J.D. FitzPatrick after having beaten him in both the county finals and an earlier dual meet. On Saturday, however, Obendorfer won, 5-4, after having reached the finals on a technical fall and two decisions.

“I believed God had a plan for Scottie, an that losing the regional final was a great lesson for him not to take anything for granted. Of course there is disappointment,” said coach John Furgeson. “But how you respond defines character and the person you become. Scottie was so focused this weekend and ready to wrestle. He zeroed in on what he had to do to overcome that obstacle.”

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Ryan Lawrence leads Damascus to state title

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When Ryan Lawrence entered The Show Place Arena for the March 3-4 Class 4A-3A state tournament, the 145-pound Damascus junior had a lot on his mind.

It had been a year since Lawrence was forced to settle for a third-place finish at states after having, in his words, been “20 seconds” from reaching the finals “and then getting pinned.”

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Purkey now known for more than just his pinning abilities after tournament

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Although Paul Purkey is known for his pinning abilities, the Damascus junior was having trouble finishing off Westminster’s Garrett Vandervalk in their 182-pound Class 4A-3A state title bout at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.

But when the time came, Purkey pounced for the pin, registering his team-high 37th fall of the year in 3 minutes, 22 seconds.

“It was a nearside cradle,” said Purkey, who improved to 47-1. “The cradles are normally there if I wait for them. So when I saw the opportunity, I went for it.”

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‘God, family and Damascus wrestling’ wins fifth Class 4A-3A state tournament

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UPPER MARLBORO –Junior Scottie Obendorfer (126) and senior Colin McLaughlin (160) may have lost their title matches, but the state runners-up were among six Damascus wrestlers who placed within the top four of their weight classes as the Swarmin’ Hornets won their second straight and fifth overall Class 4A-3A state tournament crown at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro of Prince George’s County. 

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