Winters Mill’s 2010-2011 season started with a huge, and possibly telling, win over Southern Garrett in a late 2010 dual meet; a win that started a snowball effect to a 2011 State Tournament Title.
“That was kind of a hint,” Falcon coach John Lowe said. “It was like, “maybe we’ve got it this year.”
Get it, they did, rolling through a nearly perfect season with a runner-up finish in the 1A/2A State Duals, and winning county, region and state tournament titles.
“We have been chasing Southern Garrett for years, and to pass them and get this is what we have been working for forever,” Lowe said. “It is literally the culmination of everything we have been working for. Since the school opened, since I left the college ranks and got into Winters Mill, it is a giant monkey off the back, and I feel like we can exhale.”
Coming of two-straight years of third-place finishes, the Falcons sent returning state champ Justin Kozera (285), Wes Cook (130) and Keith Steine (135) all to the state finals, crowning Kozera for his second state title and Winters Mill’s 19 team-point win.
Kozera earned his second state title in as many weightclasses, reversing his Gwynn Park opponent and decking him in the second period.
“It is just a step in the right direction for our program,” Kozera said about the team’s accomplishment. “We are really young, we only have two seniors on the team, and to earn a state title here and to come in second at the duals, things are going up from here.”
On a side win, Winters Mill one-upped the State Dual Champion Genelg with the Falcon’s tournament win, distancing themselves by 22 points on the weekend.
Kozera’s title added another accolade to the Falcon Wrestler, making him the school’s first multiple-time state champ, while his other finalist teammates took home second-place finishes.
“As long as I get the hand raised, I don’t care if I am getting pins,” said Kozera, who ended his season 40-0 by pinning his way to the finals in less than two minutes. “It is great, the atmosphere is great, and I just love it and am going to miss it.”
Kozera exited his final high school match with a summersault across the mat and leaping into his coaches’ arms, embracing his mentors for the final time as a Winters Mill wrestler.
“He is like another coach,” Lowe said of Kozera. “He is intellect, he is experienced, he has a level head, it is almost like we have another coach. Like a spy among the troops.”
Steine and Cook’s second place finishes were also crucial in the Falcons’ win, which saw all eight of the team’s wrestlers put points towards the win.
“It is tough to do it when you only bring eight people, because we are beating each other up,” Lowe said of the West Region. “You come in wondering if you can pass Genelg, who has 11, and Owings Mills, who has 13, but we knew we were really going to have to step up.”
Steine was in an “All West” state final, being pared with Liberty’s Dan Markosky, with Markosky emerging victorious in a 1-0 decision for a 135-pound title, while the West saw countess state champions on the night.
“I think one of the reasons the West is dominant is that the Carroll County is in it,” Lowe explained. “We have eight teams that are just tough is nails. When you add Carroll County to the West, it is just a bloody knuckle throw down.
“To emerge from that as that as a County champ, and to emerge as a Region champ, you automatically think, ‘Hey, we’ve got a shot.’
“We have two seniors, so we want to get those young guys excited and ready to do it again. We have to get them greedy.”