Shooting For More
Colonel takes aim at first regional duals berth; strong freshman class filling KI’s lightweight ranks
Stephen Decatur High’s wrestling team may not be touched this season.
The loaded Seahawks figure to go unbeaten against its Bayside Conference brethren, and, barring injury, look to be a heavy favorite to win their second Bayside tournament title in three years.
That’s not to say the conference’s northern half plans on quietly going through the motions this winter.
North Caroline’s Ryan Bauer, Easton’s Maximus Bentley, Kent Island’s Hadyn Blanchard and Colonel Richardson’s Jordan Gabriel should again make strong bids for state titles come March. And North Caroline, Kent Island and Queen Anne’s County should again push for berths in the Class 2A East Region Dual-Meet tournament.
Then there’s Colonel Richardson.
In addition to Gabriel vying to improve on his fourth-place finish at states last season, Bryan Hall enters his seventh season as head coach with a team that has the goods to challenge for the school’s first trip to the 1A East DualMeet tournament.
“We should have qualified for it last year,” said Hall of a team that forfeited two wins because of a paper work snafu that left Colonel’s record at 7-7, one spot shy of qualifying for the 1A East duals. “Last year we wanted to get in. And I’m fairly certain that if we got in we would have won it.”
Optimism on the mats appears higher than ever before in American Corner this season. The Colonels won the annual seasonopening Andy Perez Memorial Tournament for the first time two weeks ago, with Brandon Draper (126 pounds) and Gabriel (195) going unbeaten to win their respective weight classes.
“I think it’s going to give our kids a lot of confidence,” Hall said of the tourney win. “The big thing with the tournament was we had all 13 people in the lineup. I think everybody else was forfeiting four to six spots.”
The Colonels should fill every weight class, though they may not have a set lineup until after the Christmas break. Over the past three seasons, Hall has watched
his program steadily improve, going from three wins, to five, to last season’s 7-7 slate.
Hall isn’t predicting an upset of Decatur, or some of the conference’s other perennial heavyweights. But Jordan Gabriel and Brandon Draper, together with Zach Draper, Brandon Jester, Samson Opher — who each went 7-2 at the Perez tournament — Mason Lambert, Troy Rose, Jorselen Gabriel, Austin Spies and Ryan Stanton give Colonel a solid core, which could gain added strength as a group of promising-looking freshmen develop.
“We wrestled really well,” Hall said of his team’s performance at the Perez tournament. “I think our younger guys grew a lot. We had four freshmen in the lineup and each one of them got better as the tournament went on. So we’re excited.”
That excitement could remain in Colonel’s corner through the regular and postseason.
Here’s a look at this season’s local teams:
Kent Island Head Coach: Tommy Sitar, 4th season.
Who’s Where: 106: Collin Edds (Fr.); 113: Jacob Bowman (Fr.); 120: Jack Mulligan (Fr.); 126: Cameron Faulkner (Fr.); 132: Garrett Griebel (Fr.); 138: Matthew Miller (Jr.); 145: Douglas Alvarez (Jr.); 152: Peter Connor (Sr.); 160: Jared Silva (Sr.); 170: Randy Main (So.); 182: Joey Bunce (Sr.); 195: Max Tate (Sr.); 220: Hadyn Blanchard (Jr.); 285: Grayson Colchagoff (Sr.).
Outlook: State-qualifiers Dylan Finlay, Nick Leisenring and Jake Hipps are gone, but apparently so are the forfeits that plagued the Bucs, who surrendered as many as 18 to 24 points between 106 and 126 last season. That doesn’t appear to be a problem this early season, with a strong looking freshman class filling the lightweight ranks.
“They work hard; they keep the intensity up in practice,” Sitar said. “I’m sure they’ll keep their nose to the grindstone and keep working hard.”
Blanchard (15-6) came back from an early season injury to place fourth at states at 220 and hopes to go a few steps further this season. Bunce (31-11) is also back with plans for a return trip to states, while helping the Bucs qualify for the 2A East duals.
“We’re looking at qualifying for regional duals and those are kind of our goals,” said Sitar, who’s is hoping trips to the South River Duals, the New Year’s Brawl at Easton, and the always challenging War on the Shore at Decatur ready his team for the postseason.
“It’s awesome to go to a tournament that’s harder than your state tournament,” Sitar said of War of the Shore.
Queen Anne’s Coach: David Stricker, 4th season.
Who’s Where: 106: Logan Unkart (Fr.); 113: Michael Corder (So.); 120: Pete Lemmons (So.); 126: Aaron Pickett (So.); 132: Hunter Charles (Jr.); 138: Eric Smith (Jr.); 145: Isaac Murdoch (Sr.); 152: Jacob Westfall (Jr.); 160: Chase Woodall (Fr.); 170: Ian Weingaertner (So.); 22: Sean Blackwell (So.); 285: Angelo Moore (Sr.).
Outlook: With region champions Lemmons (36-4) and Smith (30-6) back, along with fellow state qualifiers Moore (25-9) and Charles (in 2017), Stricker thought the Lions had a chance to improve on last season’s 12-4 slate, which ended in the finals of the 2A East duals. But potential forfeits could spoil those plans.
“I was really looking to kind of take the next step since we’ve got a lot of kids returning,” Stricker said. “But without filling the full lineup we’re kind of in the same boat we were last year. I think we’ll beat the teams we’re supposed to beat, but we hit like a Parkside and Caroline, solid, full lineups, and it’s going to be pretty tough for us.”
Queen Anne’s learned that with last Wednesday’s season-opening loss to North Caroline, which Stricker hoped proved something else to his team.
“We’ve been preaching practicing right,” Stricker said. “Being a good practice partner and drilling the correct way and I think (the Caroline match) kind of helped turn on the light bulb for some of our new guys because we’re so young. We’ve got to drill hard and do it right in practice so that way it shows up in the match. You can’t just try and flip the switch in a match.”
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Kent Island’s Joey Bunce, back, is seeking a return to states.