OWINGS MILLS, MD. — The referee raised Alfred Bannister’s right hand Sunday night in the middle of Mat 3 at McDonogh School. And Bannister, the McNamara senior and winningest high school wrestler in Maryland history, unfurled his fist, instead holding up four fingers.
Bannister shook hands with his opponent, McDonogh’s Cameron Harrell, and the opposing coaches. Then he ran to the corner of the mat, where his father, A.J. Bannister, was waiting for a bearhug. With the 5-3 win in the 145-pound final, Bannister won his fourth Maryland Independent School state title, achieving a goal that overshadowed all others for the Maryland-bound wrestler.
“It was a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Bannister, who was also named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler. “I was nervous before the match. The match itself, everything it stood for, getting my fourth title, the legacy that I would leave on my high school wrestling career in Maryland.”
Bannister is just the fifth wrestler to win four straight MIS championships and the first since 2012. Five other wrestlers have won four Maryland public school state championships.
But for Bannister, the accomplishment was even more meaningful. In 2009, he watched from the edge of the mat as his older brother, Andrew, lost his shot at a fourth title in the third period of the championship match against a McDonogh wrestler.
Bannister faced similar circumstances and was determined not to let history repeat itself. He got two takedowns and dodged an acrobatic last-gasp move from Harrell, appropriately dubbed the “flying squirrel,” in the final seconds.
“It meant so much to my family for me to get this fourth title,” Bannister said. “We couldn’t take another loss. This was for me and my brother.”
Bannister was joined atop the podium by several other area wrestlers. Georgetown Prep had two individual champions; freshman Eric Hong pinned Steven Simpson of St. Mary’s Ryken at 120 pounds, and senior Michael Sprague beat Archbishop Spalding’s Matt Pente, 8-0, in the 138-pound final.
Spalding senior Logan Breitenbach won his second consecutive state championship, defeating Sam Rowell of Mount Saint Joseph’s, 17-5, in the 160-pound final. Breitenbach has committed to wrestle at Iowa State next season.
“This is probably the last time I’ll wrestle in Maryland, maybe ever. I never really thought about that,” Breitenbach said. “It’s kind of crazy to think about now, but it feels good to cap it off with a state title.”
Defending champion Good Counsel began Sunday afternoon with eight semifinalists but only finished with one champion, sophomore Kevin Budock at 132 pounds. Four other Falcons were runners-up in their respective weight classes.
Good Counsel led the team competition for the majority of the two-day event but couldn’t hold on to its lead in the final two weight classes. As McDonogh’s Mike Smith and Wyatt Cook won individual titles at 220 pounds and 285 pounds, respectively, the hosts pulled ahead to take the team title with 239.5 points. The Falcons finished with 237.