OLNEY– Fear can be a great motivator, especially if you choose to attack and conquer it like Damascus senior Colin McLaughlin did during Saturday’s 160-pound championship bout of the Class 4A-3A West Regional tournament at Sherwood.
McLaughlin (a 35-4 record) scored six different takedowns, only one being his signature single-leg, during a 13-4 major decision over senior Alex Cohen of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, earning his second straight regional title and leading his Swarmin’ Hornets to the overall crown over Cohen’s runner-up Battlin’ Barons.
McLaughlin’s triumph over Cohen (37-3) was accomplished against a wrestler who had beaten him, 13-7, in last weekend’s county tournament final after having earned a 12-7 win 10 days earlier.
It also gives the senior team captain much-needed momentum heading into next weekend’s Class 4A-3A state tournament, where McLaughlin finished third last season.
“I don’t’ think I was confident last week and was honestly scared of him,” said McLaughlin, who was dethroned as county champion by Cohen, a third place regional finisher last year.
“My coaches worked with me on all of that and I just went out and wrestled like they told me to. Knowing how good he is, I didn’t let up or relax the entire match. I went out and just wrestled.”
Joining McLaughlin on the victory podium were state champion junior Scottie Obendorfer (126) and sophomore Ryan Lawrence (132) as well as his freshman brother, Johnny McLaughlin (113), all of whom added their regional titles to county championships they won a week earlier.
Finishing second were Swarmin’ Hornets’ senior Davey Creegan (145) and junior Brendan Parent (152), the latter of whom was a county runner-up last weekend after winning that tournament as a sophomore.
Finishing third were sophomores John Allan Furgeson (138) and Ben Lokos (170), the latter being a county champion last weekend. Juniors T.J. Macklin (120) and Michael Bradshaw (220) finished fourth as the Swarmin’ Hornets qualified 10 wrestlers for states.
Obendorfer (34-2) handled Churchill’s Jack Connolly 6-2, adding his third regional title to his third county crown a week earlier, and Lawrence decisioned Luis Orellana 9-2 for his initial region championship. Johnny McLaughlin (35-3) totaled six takedowns during a 16-3 rout of Clarksville’s third-place county finisher Ryan Crosby.
“It really hurt to see my brother lose last week and it was awesome to see him win this week,” said Johnny McLaughlin, who major decisioned Crosby for the third time this season. “Yet he never gives up, which is what makes me proud to have him as a brother.”
The Swarmin’ Hornets won their 14th county tournament a week ago, seven days after having earned an unprecedented fifth straight Class 4A-3A state dual meet championship.
“When you’re as successful as we’ve been, we’re the one that everyone wants to get,” said coach John Furgeson, whose Swarmin’ Hornets take aim at their second straight crown and fifth overall.
“Even with that bull's-eye on our backs, we were able to respond to situations. What I think I saw tonight is that Montgomery County is going to send some kids to states who will represent.”
Five of them are B-CC freshman Eli Guttentag (106) and seniors Logan Wilson (145) of Walter Johnson, Mitch Fenton (152) of Whitman, Gibbs Tinne (195) and Kyle Wilkins (285), all of whom remained undefeated after winning county tournament titles a week earlier.
Guttentag (40-0) sandwiched two pins around a semifinal major decision, decking third-place county finisher Christian Balmoris of Springbrook at 3:56 of their title bout.
“I tech-falled him the first time, pinned him the second time, but last week, in the counties, I only beat him, 4-2,” said Guttentag of his four victories over Balmoris. “Being undefeated surpasses all of my expectations. Last week, I wrestled way too conservatively, so it was nice to put some more points on the board.”
Logan Wilson (42-0) has now won two county and regional titles, and is looking to improve on last year’s fourth place finish at states.
“Next is states, and I’m excited to go there and see what I can do,” said Wilson, who pinned twice before handling Creegan, 16-9. “I was hearing the crowd in the finals and I was having fun. It was good to be able to win like that.”
Fenton (38-0, 23 pins) has been on fire over the past couple of weeks, earning his second county and fourth regional title with a 65-second championship fall against Parent. Wilson looks to improve on his third and fourth place finishes at the past two state tournaments.
“I want to win it all, and that’s been my goal since I was a kid,” said Fenton, whose pin of Parent, a county champ last year, was an improvement over his 8-1 decision against him in last week’s finals. “I’m obviously never happy and I’m always trying to improve. Nothing else matters but me and my wrestling.”
Tinne (38-0) was more methodical during his path to the championship with a pin, a semifinal 5-1 decision and a 7-2 victory over Rockville’s Cameron Hoppman, who was third at counties.
“I pray every day, and I know that God has a plan for me, and I’m just following that plan, getting tougher and wrestling a lot smarter,” said Tinne, who will play college football as a linebacker. “Last year, I beat guys who were placing in the regions, but I broke my hand and couldn’t be part of the postseason. Now my goal is just to win states.”
The same goes for Wilkins (40-0, 37 pins), who came close last year. A repeat county and regional champion who placed third at Class 2A-1A states, Wilkins nailed down three first-period pins, the last in 1:54 over county third-place finisher Sam Loebig of B-CC.
“It feels awesome to know I can win on the big schools division,” said Wilkins, who is headed for West Point. “My mindset it to stay humble and create the openings with moves that aren’t necessarily going to be given to me.”
Tinne’s teammate, Cornell Wilson (220, 37-2) yet again overcame rival Pat Bernardo (37-3), doing so by 3-0 after handling him 3-1 in the county finals.
A first-time county and regional champion, Wilson has beaten Bernardo three times this season. Bernardo was county and region runner-up last year, defeating Wilson, 6-3, and, 3-2, in the semifinals of each as Wilson finished third in both instances.
Wilson pinned Bernardo at the Big Train Duals in January toward earning Outstanding Wrestler honors at Walter Johnson.
“I’ve wrestled him so many times I know pretty much what he’s going to do,” said Wilson, a fourth place finisher at states, where he beat Bernardo 5-2 in the consolation rounds. “I definitely feel like I’m in his head, and it’s been that way since last year at states. It’s just gotten worse now. I’m winning states this year, and nobody’s going to stop me.”
Seniors Antonio Lopez (120) of Quince Orchard and Xavier Howard (138) of Wheaton each added regional titles to their county championships, with seniors Patrick Okocha (182) of Walter Johnson and Justin Budd (170) of Poolesville gaining revenge over their adversaries.
Budd had the tournament of a lifetime, his first-round 4-2 overtime victory avenging an 8-5 loss to Khalil Owens of Northwest before decking Lokos, last week’s county champ, in 3:13 of their semifinal.
In the title match, Budd overcame a 5-3 second-period deficit with a takedown and nearfall points toward winning 9-7 against Whitman’s Marcos Solloso, who pinned him earlier this season.
“Solloso’s really strong, but I would try to take him down to his back every single time I got in on him. I tried to circle with him and use the edges,” said Budd of Solloso, whom Lokos pinned in last week’s county finals.
“If I got into trouble on a takedown, I could strategically circle out of bounds. But when I got in on him, I tried to keep him in bounds. That helped me keep him on his back and get those back points.”
Lopez beat Springbrook’s Nick Kilby for the second straight week, improving on a 7-6 county championship triumph by winning 11-4 on Saturday. Howard handled Walter Johnson’s J.D. Fitzpatrick 9-3, defeating a wrestler who had won decisions over him twice in the past.
A two-time county runner-up who placed third and sixth at last year’s regions and states, Fitzpatrick won his semifinal 6-5 over Furgeson, avenging a 7-5 loss to last week’s county runner-up.
“He’s a hard guy to wrestle, but we had a bunch of the Churchill kids come over and had some hard practices,” said Howard, who was third at regions and fourth at states last season. “But it’s not over yet. I’ve got to bring a state title back to Wheaton.”
A two-time county runner-up who was second at regions last season, the 6-foot-4 Okocha restored order to his world, scoring nine points in the third-period of a 17-7 major decision over B-CC’s Marcelo McAndrew. In last week’s county finals, McAndrew won 11-8 to avenge an earlier 14-2 loss to Okocha.
“I really wanted to push the action and pin him, but I ran out of time, which was disappointing,” said Okocha, who improved to 39-2. “I was really sloppy last week and he caught me off guard. I didn’t underestimate him this time. I’m definitely peaking right now.”