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Clara Freeman is Queen of the Jungle

Hammond junior Clara Freeman scored a come-from-behind fall in 2:38 of her 125-pound title bout with junior state runner-up Emma Hardeman of Northern-Calvert to win Saturday’s second-annual Queen Of The Jungle Tournament at Queen Anne’s High.

Trailing, 4-0, at the time of the fall, Freeman glanced over at coach Greg Saumenig for reassurance.

“I just told Clara that it doesn’t matter who is out there wrestling against you and to just get out there, go to work and to let it fly,” said Saumenig, who earned three Class 4A-3A state titles at Old Mill before graduating as a 125-pounder in 2007. “Clara was able to go back out there and to relax, but at the same time, she picked up the pace. Clara returned Hardeman to the mat, threw in a half-nelson, put her on her back and pinned her.”

Hardeman had reached the finals on falls in 14, 26 and 38 seconds in addition to one in 4:35, whereas Freeman had pinned her previous rivals in 19 and 20 seconds in addition to those in 3:03 and 3:52.

“My goal was to just give my maximum effort and to see where it takes me,” said Freeman, who placed fourth at states last year. “My coaches have really helped me to build my confidence and to improve my mentality this year.”

Hardeman, earlier this month, had lost a clash of state champions, 8-7, to Crofton junior Lexy Pabon in the finals of the Who's No. 1 Tournament.

"We kind of had a rivalry," said Pabon of Hardeman. "She beat me by a point at states two years ago in the state finals when I was a freshman."

Freeman improved her record to 13-7 overall, and 11-1 against girls during her quest to become the first-ever female champion for the Bears.

“That’s [a state title] absolutely my goal,” Freeman said. “I did a little junior league wrestling but I didn’t take it seriously until high school.”

State champion junior Ally Conley (105) and sophomore Addie Dickens (115) won titles for the host and tournament champion Lions (174 points), who placed 11 wrestlers within the top four of their weight classes to nearly double the scoring of runner-up Stephen Decatur (90).

Finishing second for the Lions were senior Delaney Gray (130) and junior Kaylynn Bryant (170), with fourth-place finishes from freshman Annalise Michael (100), sophomores Bree Conard (115), Linda Vail (135), Lilly Hammond (145) and Maggie Rooney (235), junior Ava Price (125) and senior Julia Reburn (140).

The Lions continued their momentum after having been champions of the Maverick Duals, where they defeated host Manchester Valley, Francis Scott Key, La Plata and Winters Mill. They also placed fourth at the Beast of East Tournament and boast victories over Walter Johnson, Colonel Richardson and Westminster.

Conley scored five first-period falls to improve her record to 14-5 on the year. Conley used pins in 22, 37, 48 and 74 seconds to reach her title bout, where she took 32 seconds to finish sophomore Camryn Hawse of St. Mary`s High.

Dickens entered with a record of 3-11, yet she managed to win her title bout, 8-4, over previously unbeaten freshman Olivia McGregor of Colonel Richardson, who entered at 11-0. Dickens reached the finals on falls in 42 and 64 seconds in addition to those in 1:52 and 1:58.

Third-place LaPlata’s lone champion was junior Daisy Rojas (145), who improved her record on the year to 12-1 with her title-bout fall in 3:01 over previously unbeaten junior Mackenzie Adams of Sussex Tech. Adams entered at 4-0 against Rojas, who also had pins in 43 and 75 seconds as well as another in 3:08.

Randallstown’s senior two-time all-girls state champion Ugochi Anunobi (170) nailed down five first-period pins to improve her record to 23-1 on the year and an extraordinary 67-1 for her career. Anunobi had falls in 19, 20, 44, 67 and 38 seconds, the latter being against Bryant in the championship bout.

By pinning all three of her 170-pound rivals last month, Anunobi won the Ken Berlett Sr. Fall Classic at Milford Mill. She flattened two more opponents to win the Davison Classic at Randallstown.

Anunobi earned her initial state title as a sophomore at the all-girls state championships at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro by completing an 11-0 season at 155 pounds despite having to overcome an injury to her left shoulder during her 13-9, championship victory over Elizabeth Heglar of McDonough.

As a junior, Anunobi finished with a mark of 30-0 that included being 3-0 (all pins) against boys. She earned her state championship victory with a 7-4 decision over previously unbeaten Azariyah Johnson (15-1) of Stephen Decatur, this, after reaching the finals on pins in 27 and 32 seconds before winning her semifinal bout by 16-1 technical fall.

Anunobi can become Randallstown’s first three-time state champion under Rams’ coach Earnest Davison, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native who also guided Jaylen Hyman to a pair of crowns as a sophomore and junior in 2019 and 2020.

Stephen Decatur’s state runner-up Johnson (190) was on the podium at Queen Anne’s, having to win a pair of decisions over Delaware junior Kaci James of William Penn. Johnson beat James once by the score of 6-2 during pool play and again by 4-1 decision in the title bout. Johnson also had falls in 12, 31 and 75 seconds, rising to 11-0 on the year.

Boonsboro crowned sophomore JB Bryant (100) and senior Amelia Mikus (135), with Bryant nailing down falls in 16, 17, 24 and 30 seconds before taking 91 seconds to pin senior title-bout rival Faith Croson of LaPlata.

Mikus improved to 12-1 on the year by using falls in 43 and 67 seconds and another in 1:57 to reach the finals, where she won by injury default over sophomore Hayden Mullens of Southern-Anne Arundel.

State runner-up junior Emily Boling (235) Northern-Calvert improved to 8-0 on falls in 35, 52 and 76 seconds as well as one in 2:10 before finishing her championship bout with rival Stephanie Gonalez of Edmondson in 90 seconds.

Other champions were Wicomico senior Alayah Nuttall (110), Northeast-Anne Arundel junior Sophia Hodges (120) and Crofton sophomore Isabella Coe (130).

Nuttall remained unbeaten at 8-0, including falls in 39 and 31 seconds to go with others in 2:22 and 2:59. Nuttall took 35 seconds to pin Randallstown sophomore Oluwadam Idowu for the title.

Hodges’ 9-1 record includes falls in 1:34, 1:47 and 2:43 along with 5-1 decision. Hodges won her championship match, 7-2, over Richard Montgomery junior Cielo Prieto, who entered at 11-0.

Coe pinned all four of her opponents, including senior runner-up Callie Serio of Northeast-Anne Arundel in 3:51 of their title match. Coe also registered falls in 54 seconds as well as in 3:38 and 3:48.

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