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Montgomery wrestlers win coveted state crowns

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Published on: Thursday, March 08, 2012

By Tim Schwartz

COLLEGE PARK – In only his second campaign, Winston Churchill 138-pound sophomore Hunter Sutton shined the brightest once again where it matters most. 

On Saturday night inside Cole Field House at the University of Maryland, Sutton earned his second MPSSAA 3A/4A state championship  in as many years by defeating Duval junior Anwan Reddick with a 10-6 decision.

With his second title, Sutton hopes to one day become only the sixth Maryland public school wrestler to earn four state championships. The feat was accomplished for the fifth time ever on Saturday as Centennial’s Nathan Kraisser earned his fourth title two bouts after Sutton earned his second. 

Churchill assistant coach Brandon Shapiro, a two-time state champion himself in 2003 and 2004 for Churchill, does not think it is premature to start thinking about Sutton winning four state championships, despite being only half way there.

“I think he’s got a great potential (to win four state titles),” said Shapiro. “As long as he doesn’t get injured, keeps his head straight, he’ll without a doubt win four.”

“That’s my goal,” said Sutton. “It would be awesome. I feel like I really accomplished something winning four, it’s pretty big. I had a great tournament last year and I started getting really big confidence going for four state titles after winning freshman year.”

Winning by huge scores is not Sutton’s style but instead he manages his matches, often times holding his opponents to low scores and steadily pulling away in matches. Sutton controlled each of his matches during the state tournament once again, outscoring his four opponents by a combined 23-points including two shutout victories en route to the state crown.

“I’m not like those kind of guys that are trying to put a lot of points on the board,” Sutton said. “It’s just how I wrestle, I’m not going to tech or pin.”

Meanwhile, after falling short in the state finals last season by a score of 3-0, Walter Johnson 182-pound senior Elad Covaliu came up big in the state finals this year by defeating Joe Rimel of Urbana, 9-5, to win the 182-pound state crown in wild fashion.

“It feels great, I didn’t know it would feel this good,” said Covaliu. “Ever since last year this is my goal. I got second last year but I just came hungry, it was my chance to get it.”

“I was a lot more calm this year. I knew what it was like, I knew exactly what was going to happen so I just came in ready.”

With the score 5-4 in Covaliu’s favor early in the third period, Rimel broke one of the golden rules of wrestling: to never stop wrestling. Rimel seemed to stop wrestling when both wrestlers got to the edge of the mat and turned his back to Covaliu, casually walking back to the center of the mat. 

Knowing the whistle did not blow, Covaliu speared Rimel’s legs from behind to earn the takedown to increase his lead to 7-4. Fortunately for Covaliu, he never looked back.

“I guess he thought we were out of bounds so he turned his back to me and starting walking back to the middle so I just took him down kind of like a football tackle,” said Covaliu.

Walter Johnson coach Tom Wheeler said he has seen such an occurrence before, albeit rarely.

“Unless the referee blows the whistle you got to keep wrestling, Elad knows that,” said Wheeler. “I think the deciding factor was he was here last year and he lost and that made him work to win it this year. He lost the county championship to Callendar and that focused him for the last two weeks. He worked like a Trojan and he really, really did a good job the whole tournament… he certainly deserves the state championship.” 

Covaliu’s crown helped lead Walter Johnson to a 10th place finish, which is the highest of all the Montgomery County schools.

There was more confusion in the 170-pound final between Springbrook senior Aaron Perez and Garrett Lineberger of Thomas Stone.

Leading 2-1 entering the third period, Perez had his choice of position. Head coach Rob Wendel told Perez to choose neutral but Perez chose top instead in a moment of confusion. Knowing he made a mistake Perez tried to change his position to neutral but the referee did not allow him to change his choice. 

“Going into the third period with a 2-1 lead I felt like we were in control of the match… he chose top, I’m telling him to choose neutral and the ref wouldn’t let him change,” said Wendel. “I’m not sure what the rule is on that.”

After an escape for Lineberger to tie the score at 2-2 early in the third period, Lineberger was able to secure a takedown to take the lead. Lineberger would never look back as he earned a 7-4 decision over Perez. Wendel said it was possible the confusing moment may have hurt his wrestler’s performance in the final period although he would not speculate. Through it all, Wendel was extremely proud of his senior’s performance at the tournament and season overall. 

“I thought it was outstanding,” said Wendel of Perez’s performance in the tournament. “I don’t think anybody expected him to be there except him and us. He’s a takedown finish away from the state champ and he had a heck of a year.”

In the 160-pound final, Tuscarora undefeated senior Austin Wenzlaff overwhelmed Walt Whitman 160-pound senior Brad Taylor in the finals, dominating Taylor by a score of 12-2. 

Although Taylor was blown out in the final, he certainly earned his spot to be in the finals against Wenzlaff by winning his first three matches of the tournament by a combined six points. Taylor’s quarterfinal and semifinal victories came against the eventual fourth and third-place finishers, respectively.


Damascus 106-pound freshman Mikey Macklin placed sixth, losing, 8-3, to Anthony Genco of Hereford in the fifth place bout. Macklin, a freshman, is the only place-winner for county champion Damascus. 

Clarksburg senior defeated 2010 state champion Alex Polonsky of Wilde Lake, 8-2, to place third at 113-pounds while Thomas S. Wootton senior Jacob Weaver beat Taariq Mohammed of River Hill, 7-2, in the fifth place match to earn his 100th career win in his final match. Weaver led Wootton to a 14th place finish, 11-points behind Walter Johnson for the second best finish of all the county schools.

Quince Orchard 120-pound senior Eli Bienstock placed fourth, losing to Thierno Diallo of Duval, a returning state finalist, in the third place match. A four-time county and regional champion, Bienstock finishes his high school career with a second place finish, two third-place finishes, and a fourth place finish at the state tournament. The winningest wrestler in Quince Orchard history will continue his wrestling career at Cornell.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase 126-pound junior Will Witkop was defeated by Alford Hardy of Stephen Decatur in the fifth place match, 6-0, to place sixth. At 132-pounds, Montgomery Blair senior Chris Wells defeated Col. Zadok Magruder sophomore Andrew Conine, 5-3, in the third round of the consolations. Wells lost his next two matches, however, to settle for sixth, losing to Alex Truitt of Leonardtown, 4-3, in the fifth-place match.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase 138-pound junior Charlie Banaszak fought his way through the consolation rounds after a second round defeat to Stephen Beam of Eastern Tech to earn a rematch with Beam in the third place bout. Despite being down 5-0 early in the match, Banaszak earned eight consecutive points to eventually win, 9-7, for a third place finish.

“I knew I was the better wrestler going into it,” said Banaszak. “It feels really, really good to get that loss avenged… I’m really happy with my performance.”

Seneca Valley 152-pound junior Kellen Staton defeated Jesse Garrett of Towson, 5-1, for a third place finish. Tied at 1-1 late in the match, Staton went all in for the win.

“I just thought, ‘what the heck, go for it’ and went for the throw, got it,” said Staton. “Last year I went 0-2 and left on the first day. Third this year feels great.”

Blake senior Edwin Callendar defeated Aburough Abegesah of Eleanor Roosevelt, 6-3, to place third at 182-pounds.

“I just went out there and had fun,” said Callendar, the only wrestler to hand state-champion Covaliu a loss this season. “It was my last match of my high school career so I didn’t want to take it too seriously. It feels good (to place third) but it wasn’t my goal so I will take this with me to wherever I go wrestle in college and get ready for NCAA’s.” 

After first round losses, Callendar’s teammate and best friend 195-pound senior Will Sewell and Walter Johnson senior Tim Forline battled through the entire consolations bracket to wrestle each other for third place. Only a second year wrestler, Sewell avenged last weekend’s defeat to Forline to come out on top, 7-4.

“I put everything on the mat,” said Sewell. “Second year wrestling, it feels good to be third in the state right now and I’m going to just keep working in the off-season to progress and try to wrestle in college… It feels good to come back and take third.

“Me and Edwin, we fight. He got me to wrestle last year and from there on we built a big bond and brotherhood and we push each other… and it paid off for both of us.”

Wootton 220-pound senior Ralph Bernardo fought his way back from an overtime-semifinal loss to wrestle Jacob Benedict of River Hill for third place. Tied at 1-1 after the first three periods, Bernardo needed four overtime periods to get the victory, 3-2.

“When I won the coin toss (in the fourth overtime) I knew I won the match,” said Bernardo. “There was no way in hell that kid would ever take me down.” 

Northwest junior Luis Beteta placed sixth at the same weight class, losing to Emmanuel Zamba, 12-2, of Charles H. Flowers in the fifth place match.

Walt Whitman senior Josh Daryoush needed an overtime victory to advance to the third place match where he then finished his career with a victory by defeating Lorenzo Maddox of North County, 6-1, to place third at 285-pounds. 

“It was a tough match I knew he was a thrower so I just tried to stay away from tying up with him too much… I took the opportunities he gave me,” said Daryoush. “It feels good (to end my career with a win), it’s the way it should be.”

On the 1A/2A side, Poolesville senior Robert Winning improved upon his fifth place finish last year by battling back from a semifinal loss to place third at 160-pounds, defeating Marshal Chang of Winters Mill, 6-5. Winning lost his semifinal match, 8-5, to undefeated wrestler Zach Shoemaker of Williamsport, the eventual state champion.

Along with Walter Johnson and Wootton, Blake and Walt Whitman finished tied for 16th place while Springbrook (T-24th), Bethesda-Chevy Chase (28th), Winston Churchill (29th) and Clarksburg (30th) each earned top-30 finishes.

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