No area wrestling program has had more success than Colonial Forge since the Stafford school opened in 1999, and the Eagles were the most dominant team in the region again this year.
Forge won its fourth Virginia AAA championship in six years, its 11th consecutive Northwest Region title, its 12th consecutive Commonwealth District crown, and 182-pound senior David Reck became the team’s 13th individual state champion since 2003.
Colonial Forge went undefeated in dual meets against local competition, and placed higher than any local school in every tournament it entered, earning the Eagles the top spot in The Post’s final Top 10 rankings.
“This was a group that was truly a team,” Colonial Forge Coach Bill Swink said. “They really jelled as a group of athletes. They all had a common goal, they worked for it, and they achieved almost everything they set out to do.”
This is the eighth time since 2002 that Forge has finished atop The Post’s final rankings, but Swink estimates this is one of the three best Forge teams he has had, rivaling the teams that won the school’s first two state championships in 2007 and 2008.
The 2007 squad crowned two individual state champions, the 2008 squad crowned four and the 2009 team that also won the state title crowned three, but the depth of this year’s team behind lone state champion Reck puts the current team on the others’ level.
Ten Forge wrestlers were state medalists who finished in the top eight in their weight classes at the state championship meet, including Connor Mairena (120 pounds), Michael Hayes (126) Mark Garrity (195) and Quinton Winters (220), who all finished third.
The Eagles finished 65.5 points ahead of the rest of the state championship field, doubled the score of every other team except for second-place Robinson and clinched the team championship well before the final round.
“It was our focus that brought us the state championship,” said Reck, who will wrestle at Air Force next year. “Everybody believed, and that’s a big reason why we were able to win it.”
A year ago, River Hill left the Maryland 4A/3A wrestling tournament in College Park with a 30th-place team finish and palpable disappointment on the bus ride home over a lackluster end to the season.
“It wasn’t terrible,” Coach Brandon Lauer said. “For most teams, that’s a great year, but for us, that’s unacceptable. We set the bar high.”
River Hill’s determination to avoid a similar fate this year fueled one of the area’s most impressive postseason runs. After falling in the 4A/3A final at the state duals on Feb. 11, the fifth-ranked Hawks hit their stride in tournament competition, capping the season with their first state tournament title on March 3.
Along the way, they posted a record point total in winning the Howard County title and scored almost twice as many points as second-place Meade at the 4A/3A East region meet.
River Hill needed time to round into that championship form. The school’s football team won the Maryland 3A title in December, ensuring that several key contributors to Lauer’s squad got a late start on the mat. Because of injury and illness, the Hawks never fielded their expected starting lineup until late in the season.
At the state tournament, senior 285-pounder Jason Johnson recorded River Hill’s only individual title but five of the team’s eight entrants placed and all of them won at least one match, helping hold off second-place Perry Hall.
The win held special significance for Lauer, who grew up around the River Hill wrestling program. The 2000 All-Met Wrestler of the Year took over the job from his father, Earl, in 2006.
During Lauer’s senior year, River Hill held a 10-point lead late in the state duals final before Old Mill closed with a pair of pins to take the crown. The Hawks’ only previous state wrestling title came at the 2003 duals when Lauer was still competing at West Virginia University.
Now Lauer can say he’s been a part of a championship high school squad, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting any easier these days. With 10 starters expected to return next season, he’s already thinking about the challenges of defending the title.
“You try to soak it all in and enjoy it, but then you’re already starting to think about next year,” Lauer said. “You start to project and all that stuff, and you know you already have work to do.”
More wrestling coverage at AllMetSports.com