South River senior Alexandra Szkotnicki earned a 1-0 decision over Broadneck sophomore Cam Williams in their 113-pound bout to become only the second female to win an Anne Arundel County title at Broadneck High on Saturday night.
Szkotnicki (42-5, 29 pins) escaped with 25 seconds left in the second period, following a scoreless first period and rode out Williams (26-3) for the remainder of the match.
In victory, Szkotnicki joined Arundel High’s Nicole Woody (103), who made more history as a senior in 2007 by becoming Maryland’s first girl to win an Anne Arundel County and regional title and to finish as a Class 4A-3A state runner-up.
“There was a lot of pressure on me tonight,” said Szkotnick, 18. “This was definitely a high stress situation, but I kept my cool and left it in God’s hands.”
Szkotnicki earned her 28th and 29th falls of the year to reach the finals, improving her record to 15-0 against county rivals including eight pins, a technical fall and two major decisions.
Szkotnicki had previously owned a 5-2 decision over Williams, a returning county tournament runner-up and regional champion who placed sixth at last year’s Class 4A-3A state tournament.
“There were a lot of adjustments made and he stuck to his game plan and I stuck to mine,” said Szkotnicki, a B-plus student who will major in sports psychology at McKendree University in Illinois. “This feels great and it means a lot to be a part of history, especially following Nicole. She’s done a lot for this sport, breaking barriers for myself and so many other girls .”
Considered a top contender for the Class 4A-3A state tournament crown, Szkotnicki is ranked third at 113 in the division behind top-ranked sophomore Drew Montgomery of Northern-Calvert County and second-ranked senior Conrad Randall of Walt Whitman of Montgomery County.
Montgomery is a returning regional champion and Class 4A-3A state runner-up who went 44-1 last season, and Randall edged Williams, 6-3, for fifth at states a year ago.
Freshman teammate Trent Shipley (106) preceded Szkotnicki in victory, earning his crown with a come-from-behind 10-8 decision to beat Old Mill freshman Logan Johnson.
“It felt great to win and to see Alex win, because if anybody deserves to win, Alex does,” said Shipley, who improved to 42-5. “She’s a real leader in the room and she works hard to achieve everything she does.”
Woody pinned South River’s Curtis Taylor in five minutes, 42 seconds for the county title and blanked Centennial’s Jack Western 2-0 in the finals of the Class 4A-3A regionals on a reversal with 61 seconds left in the third period.
Woody lost her state title bout 6-2 to River Hill’s Scott Mantua, who had finished third behind her at regions after losing to Western in the regional semifinals.
Woody won her state semifinal 5-4 in overtime against Tuscarora’s C.J. Savage, having already become the first girl to qualify for the 4A-3A meet as a sophomore, and the first to pin a boy at a state meet as a junior.
Woody is also the first female ever to win junior nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, four times. Woody has worked with and coached Szkotnicki in competitions and tournaments, and also coached at King and Campbellsville Universities. Woody is now coaching at her alma mater, Oklahoma City University.
“Congrats Alex. I’m so proud of you. Keep breaking records and shooting for the stars. She’s such a talented wrestler,” said Woody, also a junior Pan Am and junior world champion who has coached three Olympians and 10 national champions.
“Alex is very technical and intentional and one of the hardest workers you’ll ever meet. This is just the beginning, you’ll have even more fun from here on out. Keep representing Maryland and team USA. I’m excited for Alex’s future. She’s one of those rare athletes who are especially self-motivated.”
Szkotnicki was two years old when Montgomery County freshman Helen Maroulis made an impact in March 2006, becoming the first girl to place at the Maryland wrestling championships with a sixth place finish at 112 pounds in the 4A-3A state tournament.
As a Magruder junior in 2009, Maroulis became the first female to reach the finals of both the Montgomery County and Class 4A-3A East Region tournaments and repeated her sixth-place finish at states.
A 5-year-old Szkotnicki first approached her mother, Dana, about wrestling at the end of her youth football season.
“I met Alex when she was a little girl. I would come and visit Maryland and everyone wanted me to meet and work with Alex. So I would always try to stop by at her practice wherever she was. Then I moved back to Maryland in 2016,” Woody said.
“I helped coach the boys at Annapolis High School. During that time I got to spend several months working with Alex and our other Maryland girls at least once a week. That was a lot of fun and very special to me to give back to Maryland wrestling for both the boys and girls.”
Szkotnicki is senior team captain for the South River High Seahawks, who have won five county tournaments and seven county dual meet titles under 23rd-year coach John Klessinger.
“There are so many girls out there who want to compete, so this is wonderful for Alex and the sport in general,” Dana Szkotnicki said. “We talked about Helen and we talked about Nicole and what they went through to get where they are, and what Alex went through to get where she is. Any time you can be a part of that by stepping up and being a role model, you have to do that and it’s your job.”
Szkotnicki has lost twice to Montgomery and once to 120-pound sophomore Mitchell Nguyen of C. Milton Wright, who ranked sixth in the Class 2A-1A. She also lost to Loyola’s seventh-ranked sophomore Cayden Farver, a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association champion.
Szkotnicki played an integral role two weeks ago at North Point High School in Waldorf, as the Seahawks won their second straight Class 4A state dual meet crown, 42-28, over Urbana of Frederick County.
The Seahawks vanquished Sherwood of Montgomery County, 51-23, in Saturday’s semifinal, improving to 16-2 in regular season duals and 37-6 overall including dual meet tournaments. Szkotnicki decked her Sherwood rival in 75 seconds and her Urbana opponent in 3 minutes and 19 seconds.
“I was really happy with the way Alex wrestled, moving forward the entire time,” Klessinger said. “Alex was awesome, and now she has a chance to be one of the few girls who have been on the podium at the state tournament.”
A former wrestler in the South River youth leagues, Szkotnicki is motivated by trailblazers like Woody and Maroulis, whom she has met during her travels. She was with Woody in March 2017, and Maroulis in June 2018.
Maroulis later became the first-ever American female to win a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016, and world championship titles in 2015 and 2017.
Maroulis also won a gold medal in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and, most recently, a bronze medal in the Tokyo Summer Olympics and a gold medal in the January, 2022 Ivan Yariguin Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
“It’s amazing to follow along and see Alex’s success in her high school career leading closer to the state tournament of Maryland,” Maroulis said. “She’s a fierce competitor and I believe she can achieve whatever she sets her mind to.”
There has been a surge in girls’ participation in wrestling since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association held its inaugural all-girls state wrestling tournament at Northeast High in February 2018.
But Szkotnicki won’t be among the girls competing in the statewide Feb. 24-25 regional tournaments, instead remaining in competition with the males over the season’s final two weeks beginning with her county championship.
“I know I have to face [Williams] again next week,” Zskotnicki said. “I’m not sure what’s going to go down, but I’m just going to continue to keep trusting in God and doing my thing.”