The Severna Park wrestling team’s strength comes in numbers.
The Falcons’ varsity squad features 17 wrestlers this season. That total might not seem like a big number in the county for a lot of other wrestling teams.
But to second-year head coach Sam Ziff and his wrestlers, the figure means a lot. It’s a big step forward in the development of the program.
Severna Park had only 11 wrestlers last year, which consistently forced the Falcons to give up 18 points by forfeiting three matches in dual meets.
Now, they are more competitive in dual meets and the mention of a forfeit is coming from opponents. Not the Falcons.
“It was really hard to fill out the roster last year,” said senior Nate Kohler, a three-year starter on varsity. “We have a lot of new guys this year and it’s a great opportunity to grow the program. I think we are making a name for ourselves.”
It may be hard to find someone who has more enthusiasm for the program than Ziff, a Severna Park graduate who won a Class 4A state wrestling championship at 152 pounds in 2013.
He’s had a big hand in getting underclassmen to join the program and give it a boost. The roster contains a combined nine freshmen and sophomores in the 14-wrestler lineup.
“I definitely think we have the right building blocks in place for success,” Ziff explained. “When I came over here, I wanted to build off each year. That’s as far as getting people into the program, so we have the numbers, and getting them in early to develop.”
Sophomore Michael Queen has experienced a lot of success early in his career.
He posted a 43-6 record last year at 120 pounds, won a county championship, placed third in the region and advanced to the state tournament. He moved up to 126 this winter.
Queen has been an inspiration for lower-weight wrestlers on the roster: freshman Cory Rogers (106), sophomores Noah Ballinger (113), Andrew Bonk (120), Seth Macola (132) and Aidan Holly (138).
“He is on pace to be the winningest wrestler Severna Park has ever had,” Ziff said of Queen. “He is really exciting to watch. He is such a student of the sport. He trains year-round and he is always coming up to me and asking, ‘What can I improve up?’”
Queen has elevated his wrestling from last season thanks to his offseason work, which includes competing in national tournaments. He got off to a perfect 24-0 start.
Queen has become a more intense wrestler.
“I am going harder in practice and always pushing myself,” Queen said.
Kohler is another Falcon to watch. He’s poised for a stellar season after missing a good part of last year because of a hand injury. Still, he finished with a 16-4 record and placed fifth in the county at 152.
Kohler placed third in the county and advanced to the state tournament as a sophomore.
He started 17-4 this year at 165 and went 6-1 in the Oakland Mills duals.
The team’s grapplers in the upper weight classes — seniors Joshua O'Donnell and Gabriel Morris and freshmen Brett Gleisner and Andrew Wise — would like to have similar success as Kohler.
Senior Terrence Murray (144), sophomore Tom Brockett (150) and junior Benjamin Freedman (157) complete the starting lineup.
"It's great having wrestlers winning a lot of matches and winning tournaments," Ziff said. "But what I strive for is for each kid that comes out to love and enjoy the sport. This sport teaches you about yourself. You are out there about yourself. You are working with a team to get you there."
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