BRUNSWICK — Middletown’s Zach Brady has won more than 60 matches over the last two seasons.
But, until Saturday, none of the victories occurred at the county wrestling tournament.
A year after being disqualified for biting his opponent in his first bout at counties in the 195-pound weight class, something he steadfastly denies, Brady earned some form of retribution by winning the heavyweight class in the Frederick County Public Schools wrestling championships at Brunswick High School.
The powerful junior, who wrestled much of the season at 220 pounds, pinned Urbana’s Justin Karira in 4 minutes, 56 seconds at 285 to claim the county title.
“I think there was a chip on my shoulder. I think there was a chip on the whole team’s shoulder,” Brady said. “It was a great day for us.”
Brady (29-3) was one of nine Middletown wrestlers to reach the finals in the 14 weight classes and one of four champions, as the Knights claimed the team title with 192 points.
Linganore, which finished second with 149 points one year after winning the county team title, also crowned four champions.
Urbana, which crowned two champions, was third with 126, while Tuscarora, which also crowned two, including the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, Kooper Clark, finished fourth with 85.
Clark (31-2) spent a portion of his 138-pound final with Middletown sophomore Jack Boumel on his back.
“I was pretty worried. I put in all of this work. I came back from injury [a fractured left ankle suffered at the start of football season],” Clark said. “I was bridging as hard as I could. I thought I was going to break my neck and my back. I couldn’t go out like that my senior year. So, I was just giving it my all.”
Clark benefitted from a restart at the end of the first period, and managed to turn Boumel (38-5) for a pin early in the second period in 2:23.
“That was the best feeling after winning a match,” Clark said. “Once I flipped my hips over on top of him, I had to squeeze with all I had to get the ref to slap the mat.”
Clark’s victory over Boumel was part of a run of five consecutive losses for Middletown wrestlers in the finals.
It took senior Josh Brull’s 17-0 technical fall in 5:38 over Urbana’s Anson Gentry at 170 to stop the slide for the Knights.
They did get some tough breaks along the way.
Sophomore Aidan Waters was tagged with a one-point stalling call with two seconds remaining in his championship bout at 145, resulting in a 3-2 victory for Linganore’s talented junior Frankie Dickenson, who improved to 26-5 this season.
Earlier, Dickenson’s younger brother, Garhett, pinned Walkersville’s Chanz Pough in 1:41 at 120, raising his record during his freshman season to 31-5.
There was another really close final between Middletown and Linganore at 160 pounds, as sophomore Hayden Parkhurst (34-4) did well to hang on for a 2-1 victory over Knights junior Riley Sheng.
The final minute was dramatic, as Sheng (28-7) nearly earned the tying escape point on a couple of occasions and almost turned Parkhurst on his back on another.
Shortly after the bout ended, a fight began in the bleachers before it was quickly stopped by other spectators and event personnel. No one was tossed out of the gym, and Brunswick athletic Jon Jarrett believed one of the participants left on their own accord.
The tension in the stands delayed the start of the championship bout at 170 by a little more than five minutes as they worked to diffuse the situation.
The rest of the county champions were Catoctin freshman Braden Bell (32-8) at 106, Tuscarora’s undefeated junior Jhondy Fuller (30-0) at 113, Middletown freshman Oliver Graham (18-10) at 126, Urbana senior Austin Rohn (37-3) at 132, Walkersville’s Ian Ferguson (36-2) at 152, Linganore’s Chase Shultz (17-2) at 182, Urbana’s Michael Schifano (31-11) at 195 and Middletown’s Vince Green (23-5) at 220.
Brady wrestled in his first county tournament as a freshman in 2018 when he was almost 100 pounds lighter. He bowed out after going 0-2 at 160 pounds.
He thought was going to make a push for the county title last year at 195 before he was disqualified for biting the eventual runner up in the weight class, Shultz of Linganore. That ended Brady’s season right there at 33-2, as he was barred from participating in the regional tournament, which serves as a qualifier for states.
Brady claims the referee’s call was bogus, and that there was never any evidence, including bite marks on Shultz, to back it up.
But that only fueled his fire heading into this year’s county tournament.
“I finally qualified for regionals,” he quipped after pinning Urbana’s Karira in the heavyweight final, raising his record to 62-5 over this season and last.
Brady chose to bump up to heavyweight because he feels stronger and better prepared for his matches by not having to cut down to 220. He normally walks around between 230 and 240.
“I actually like my chances [at regionals and states] better at heavyweight than at 220,” Brady said.
His only loss to a public-school opponent this season was to Williamsport’s Brandon Oyster, who competes at 220. Oyster became a three-time Washington County champion Saturday and raised his record this season to 44-0. He has more than 150 victories to his name in high school.
Middletown dedicated its team championship to Keith Mullican, who passed away suddenly in January. He had served as an assistant to the program for eight years.
Mullican is the father of Sean Mullican, a former two-time state champion for the Knights who is now a redshirt sophomore at heavyweight for West Virginia University.
“He was a person that was so positive and so encouraging,” Middletown coach Jim Schartner said of Keith Mullican. “He worked with a lot of these kids in football and wrestling, and these kids are better people because of him.”