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Enter the Sandman: Grayson Barnhill

A “Sandman” is a genie in folklore who makes children sleepy by sprinkling sand in their eyes. The saying is often referenced to personify sleep or the attempts at trying to fight off sleep, aka, “The Sandman.”

South Carroll sophomore Grayson Barnhill has become a “Sandman” of pins on the wrestling mats, because no matter how much his opponents attempt to fight him off, it simply appears to be inevitable that their fate is determined and that a fall will happen.

“My goal this year was to just go out there and to get it over with,” said Barnhill, who is ranked third by Legacy Wrestling at 106 pounds. “I wanted to go undefeated by pinning everybody or as many people as possible.”

Mission accomplished.

Barnhill went 34-0 this season with 33 pins and one forfeit against rival Century during a tri-meet on the way to earning his second straight Carroll County and Class 2A-1A South Region titles, and his initial Class 2A-1A state title after being a runner-up last year. Barnhill went 38-9 with 30 pins last season, giving him a career record of 72-9 with 63 pins.

“I’ll develop one move that I hit,” Barnhill said. “Once I execute that move, it’s just not getting stopped by anybody.”

Like a mini-Mike Tyson delivering his one-punch knockout blow only at the lowest weight of Maryland high school wrestling, Barnhill assured that all of this year’s opponents have been ultimately, swiftly and firmly planted on their backs as the referee’s mat-slap signals the end.

Barnhill has been a demolition man over the past two years, particularly in the county, regional and state tournaments where he is 16-1 with 16 pins, 15 of which came in the first period.

“Grayson is a pinning machine and he’s a beast when he’s on,” said Cavaliers coach Bryan Hamper, a 2001 South Carroll graduate who was twice a state champion and twice placed fourth at the states. “I’ve never seen a young athlete as locked in as he was during the postseason. Grayson was on a mission to pin everyone, and he didn’t get out of the first-period at any of the county, regional or state tournaments.”

In those final three tournaments a year ago, Barnhill was 7-1 with six of those pins being in the first period. In those events this year, Barnhill is 9-0 with nine first-period pins. Among those falls, 11 happened in less than 29 seconds comprising one each in seven, eight and nine seconds. There are also two each in 12 and 15 seconds as well as one each in 14, 22, 23 and 28 seconds. Barnhill has also decked rivals in 39, 59 and 76 seconds as well as those in 1:46 and 4:39.

“A pin is really important to me. It shows the work and dedication that I’ve put in,” Barnhill said. “I’ve only pinned kids in like four or five different ways this year.”

Barhill won counties last year with consecutive 12-second falls. A week later at the regions, Barnhill pinned Baltimore County champion Clayton Dicus (31-2) in 1:46 after having planted his semifinal opponent in seven seconds.

At states last year, Barnhill registered pins in 14 and 76 seconds as well as one in 4:39, with the last two victories being against the eventual third and fourth-place finishers. Barnhill was a state runner-up last year following a 5-3 title bout loss to Elijah Collick of Stephen Decatur. Now a sophomore, Collick won his second Class 2A-1A state title last weekend. At this year’s county tournament, Barnhill pinned his opponents in 15 and 22 seconds. At regions, Barnhill had falls in nine, 23 and 28 seconds.

The nine-second fall was against Hereford’s fourth-place Baltimore County finishing freshman Connor Cline. The one in 28 seconds was against Sparrows Point freshman Wyatt Rossi. A Baltimore County champion who was fourth at states, Rossi’s record slipped to 33-3.

At states, Barnhill used pins in 8, 15 and 39 seconds to reach his title bout against Stephen Decatur junior Juan Hinojosa.

Hinojosa entered the match with a record of 39-3 after having pinned Rossi in 5:40 of their semifinal bout. Hinojosa lasted only 59 seconds against Barnhill.

“My most rewarding pin had to be my state finals match against Juan Hinojosa,” Barnhill said. “I pinned him with a cement mixer. I wanted to come back and prove a point and I think that the work that I’ve put in outside of the wrestling room has really shown.”

Barnhill was among the Cavaliers’ school-record-tying eight champions and milestone 10 finalists as South Carroll won its fourth straight county tournament. At states, Barnhill was joined on the victory podium by repeat state champion Jo Jo Gigliotti (132), Hamper’s son, Landon (165) and Anthony Rodrigues (175) , all of whom are sophomores.

Cavaliers’ junior Evan Owen (113) was a runner-up for the second straight year, freshmen Brody Henry (126) and Dave Snyder (138) finished fifth, and junior Angelo Marchany (144), sixth.

This year’s Cavaliers’ (27-0) earned their third straight Class 1A state duals crown at North Point High representing their 34th consecutive dual meet victory. Hamper coached his alma mater to Class 2A-1A state tournament titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 before the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association ceased scoring the state tournament in 2018.

South Carroll finished at 33-1 last season, winning that dual meet crown with a 46-30 triumph over a Northern-Garrett County Huskies squad which entered at 25-0. Last year’s title-winning effort marked the Cavaliers’ seventh straight dual meet victory following a 36-25 loss on Feb. 2, 2023.

“We’ve put a lot of weight on our younger kids’ shoulders, and it’s been a full team effort. Top to bottom, it’s been fantastic,” Hamper said. “Having 10 freshmen and sophomores in our lineup is a great indicator for where we are as a team and the future of the program.”

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