Hunt­ing­town is hun­gry to re­peat dur­ing this win­ter

Hur­ri­canes look to be 3A state cham­pi­ons again

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By JOHN NISWANDER jniswan­[email protected]­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHN NISWANDER

Hur­ri­canes ju­nior Josh Stokes work­ing on moves in the mid­dle of a team hud­dle dur­ing a prac­tice on Mon­day at Hunt­ing­town High School.

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