After winning county, region and state wrestling championships this past winter, Hammond sophomore Vince Taweel will try to find success on the national level at the USA Cadet and Junior Championships that begin Saturday in Fargo, N.D.
Taweel, who went 34-5 in the 125-pound class and was the school's first freshman to win a Maryland 2A/1A title, is one of eight county wrestlers seeking a national title. River Hill's Vince Cina was the last county wrestler to win at the event, taking the 98-pound freestyle title in 2002.
"Winning in Fargo would be huge, but I'm going in not very experienced, and I just want to place in the top eight so I can be an all-American," said Taweel, who will wrestle in the 125- or 130-pound class. "The competition I'll see in Fargo will be the toughest competition I'll see this year."
Taweel will be in the Cadet competition, made up of rising sophomores and juniors. Also on Team Maryland in that division are Centennial's Mike Montanez (119 pounds), Atholton's Robbie Eloshway (91) and River Hill's Taylor Green (119).
In the Junior competition, open to rising seniors and spring graduates, are Oakland Mills seniors Sean Kendig (189), Anthonio Josiah (130) and Greg Salvucci (160), as well as Cina (119), an All-Met who graduated in June.
"If we have a good showing, I think it would put us on the map, because right now I don't think Howard County is viewed as a big wrestling county," Taweel said. "If we can have someone win and have some people place, we can change that."
River Hill Coach Earl Lauer, an assistant coach for Team Maryland, estimated there could be upward of 150 wrestlers in each weight class.
"You're talking about the best of the best here: It would be like taking all of the five-star basketball camps in the country or all of the high school football combines and holding just one a year," Lauer said. "This is the one event that everyone has on their schedule, especially the college [wrestling] coaches, because they'll get to see who truly are the best wrestlers in the country."
Cina, who placed eighth in the 105-pound freestyle competition last year despite a broken hand, is looking forward to capping what has been an impressive high school career.
He was 37-2 his senior year and 124-27 in four years at River Hill. He became all-American by placing in the top eight in Fargo in each of his three previous trips and is hoping to finish his high school career with a strong showing.
"This is one of the hardest tournaments because all of the best wrestlers in the country are going to be there, and I just want to place as high as I can," said Cina, who will wrestle for the University of Pennsylvania this winter. "But I also want to make sure I have some fun, too."
Excel Eyes Soccer Crown
The Bethesda Excel, an U-17 girls' soccer team captained by Centennial senior midfielder Hayley Siegel, was one of four teams to qualify for this week's U.S. Youth Soccer national championships in Orlando.
The Excel lost in penalty kicks in the U-16 final last summer.
"It's a big accomplishment to get back to nationals, but that's not our goal," said Siegel, a two-time All-Met who has orally committed to play for Santa Clara University in 2005. "We're going there set on winning the national championship. We've won the state championship, and we won regionals, and winning nationals has been our goal since the season started."
The Excel dominated the Region I tournament earlier this month in Kingston, R.I., winning all three games in pool play and defeating the Boston Bolts in the semifinals, 7-0, and the Pennsylvania Strikers, 2-0, in the final.
At the national games at Walt Disney Wide World of Sports Complex this week, the team will face three other region winners: the Dallas Texans, Southern Cal United and the Windy City Pride from Illinois.
Play was scheduled to begin Tuesday. Each team plays all three other teams, and then the two teams with the best record meet in the final on Sunday.
Last year, the Excel lost to the San Diego Surf, 5-4, in penalty kicks after the game ended 1-1 through 80 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime.
"I've thought about that game all year because we were so close to winning it, having it come down to penalty kicks," Siegel said. "I think coming that close has really motivated us to get back there so we can win it."
Reds Try to Qualify
The Columbia Reds, an U-18 baseball team composed primarily of players from Howard County, will look to qualify for the National Amateur Baseball Federation's World Series for the second time in three years when regional tournament play begins today.
The Reds (27-13) will compete in a double-elimination tournament in Altoona, Pa., where the champion earns one of 11 berths in the World Series in Jackson, Miss., which begins on July 29.
The Reds last week posted victories over American Legion Mount Airy Post 11 and the Baseball Factory and swept a doubleheader against American Legion Frederick Post 191.
"I think we're playing on the level we need to be going into regionals," said Coach Paul Donovan. "It's always important that when you go into one of the biggest tournaments of the year, that you're playing well."
The Reds, who lost in the region final in Altoona last year, are looking to advance to the World Series for the first time since 2002, when they lost all four games. In each game they were tied or winning as they entered the final inning.
"I still have not forgotten that World Series because we just fell apart," Donovan said. "Hopefully this year we can do something to make me forget that."