By ANDREW MASON
11:12 PM EST, February 22, 2013
Victories definitely don’t come easily this time of the season.
Of the 22 Washington County wrestlers who qualified for the Maryland Class 2A-1A West region tournament, only six were quarterfinal winners Friday at Oakdale High School.
Williamsport’s Nick Miller (106 pounds), Bryan Davis (126), Kobe Baker (145) and Austin Keadle (195) and Smithsburg’s Travis Leopold (195) and Saul Herrera (285) all advanced to Saturday’s championship semifinals.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to next weekend’s state tournament at the University of Maryland.
Leopold, who finished fifth at regions last year, is determined to finally make it this time.
“This has been my No. 1 goal as a wrestler my entire life — to make it to states,” said Leopold, who prevailed 6-3 over Liberty’s Dan Bowen in the quarterfinals Friday. “This is my senior year. It’s my last year, and I want to go. I want to go real bad. I just have to win one more match.”
There also is still life to be had in the consolation rounds. The consolation first round, which originally was scheduled for Friday night, was pushed back to today because the quarterfinals lasted much longer than anticipated.
One of the most thrilling quarterfinal victories was turned in by Williamsport’s Baker, a freshman, over Middletown senior Andrew Clearwood at 145.
The score was 10-10 late in the third period, but Baker didn’t realize it was tied.
“I thought I was up by two,” he said. “My mom yelled, ‘Look at the score,’ with about 10 seconds left, and I knew I had to go then.”
Baker scored an escape in the final moments to prevail 11-10 — a clutch performance by a freshman.
“I was kind of nervous because it’s my first regional and I felt pressure,” Baker said. “But once I started wrestling, I felt relaxed and was just like, ‘You know what? Let’s just go.’ Now I just have to win one more to make it to states.”
Williamsport’s Miller, who’s the favorite in a loaded bracket at 106 — despite only being seeded fourth — defeated Mountain Ridge’s Cody Matthews, a returning state placewinner, 10-4 in the quarterfinals.
“(Matthews) didn’t do anything,” Miller said. “He just played defense the entire time.”
Next up for Miller is Catoctin’s Garrett Buckley, who’s the No. 1 seed and another returning state placewinner. Miller pinned Buckley in the Hub Cup finals last month.
“It’s going to be fun,” Miller said.
Williamsport’s Davis and Keadle and Smithsburg’s Herrera all scored pins in the quarterfinals.
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