Huntingtown is hungry to repeat during this winter
Hurricanes look to be 3A state champions again
Last year was a breakthrough season for the Huntingtown Hurricanes wrestling team.
After the Hurricanes reached the state duals each year from 2014 to 2016, the team was defeated in the semifinals on each occasion.
In 2017, Huntingtown lost a heartbreaker in the regional duals finals, but 2018 was the year the Hurricanes finally captured their first state dual championship after winning 10 of 14 matches against the Mount Hebron Vikings of Howard County.
“We won the state tournament and built a fundamental program. We are just trying to rebuild that this year,” senior Jake Antonioli said.
The Hurricanes enter this season as the defending Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, 3A South Region, and 3A state champions with first-year head coach Jeff Fowler leading the charge.
“It will be hard to follow and live up to the legacy the Gilligans (Steve and Kevin) forged at Huntingtown High School over the last several years, culminating in the greatest single season team in Calvert County, SMAC and Maryland history,” Fowler said. “Last year, all 14 varsity wrestlers qualified for states, five placed at states, three were state finalists and two were state champs. The team had a Maryland girls state champion, too. Those are pretty daunting results to follow, but I believe this year’s team is capable of nearly the same results.”
Fowler previously served as head coach at Northern and Calvert and was a Huntingtown assistant for two
years before becoming the head coach this season.
He will be assisted by two former Hurricanes wrestlers, including his son Nate Fowler entering his fourth year as an assistant coach with the program and Nick Morgal in his first year as an assistant. Dave Stover and Jason Kiessling round out the Huntingtown coaching staff.
“Our hope, our goal, what we know we can do, is at the end of the season, finish on top and continue that legacy,” Jeff Fowler said. “We definitely lost some horses, but our ‘Canes are capable of defending our titles. That’s the end game.”
The Hurricanes graduated some key members from last year’s championship squad, but return many state qualifiers looking to fill those voids.
Junior Josh Stokes and Dakota Cram return this year for Huntingtown after placing at states last season.
“At the beginning of the season last year, I wasn’t here. I was injured actually. For the first half, I didn’t do anything because of a thumb injury,” Stokes said. “Midway through the season I came back and started wrestling.”
Stokes, also a member of the Huntingtown football team, enters this wrestling season healthy and poised to make it one step further at states this season after placing second a year ago.
“My goal this year is to win states and the team’s goal is to make it back to win states,” Stokes said. “I want to push everybody to be the best they can be to have a great team and a great year.”
Antonioli heads a group of five returning Hurricanes who qualified for states last year that also include junior Jackson Cramer, Joe Murray, Jacob Munoz, and senior Joe Banister.
“My individual goal is to be on the podium at the state tournament,” Antonioli said. “At practice, we are just trying to get better and just be prepared on the mat for when it actually counts.”
Fowler is excited for what he believes will be another great season for Huntingtown.
“All of our state returners are poised for great seasons and are looking to make it back to and join others on the medal stand,” Jeff Fowler said. “We’ve got others returning, looking to fight their way into the varsity lineup that were paying their dues last season and a great group of new wrestlers working hard to improve quickly.”
Banister hopes his hard work this offseason will translate into a better result at states this year.
“The expectations this year are to go back to states and capture another title as a team. As an individual my goal is to make it to the 220-pound state championship,” Banister said. “Last year, I struggled with getting shots as fast as I could and getting as many as I can in the first period. I have been working on my stance and my hand fighting as well as my strength and also trying to execute as many takedowns perfectly as I can in a short amount of time.”
Huntingtown has entered into three tournaments that Jeff Fowler thinks will test his team and help them prepare for another run this postseason.
“The La Plata tourney is always a great start to the tourney part of our season and we’re looking to finally push past Damascus at this event. We are returning to South River’s tourney and look for good competition from several teams we rarely see,” Jeff Fowler said. “The Poolesville tourney is new for us and will be a great test for our ‘Canes as we’ll see teams from Pennsylvania, Virginia and northwestern Maryland we never see.”
The Hurricanes open the regular season with a dual meet at Patuxent at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.
“The team is looking good, everyone is working hard,” Cramer said.
Hurricanes junior Josh Stokes working on moves in the middle of a team huddle during a practice on Monday at Huntingtown High School.