Blazers fall short at state tournament
MARCH 6, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND—
The Blazers entered the Maryland State Wrestling Tournament with high expectations, encouraged by five top-three seedings and recent wins at the 4A/3A West Regional Tournament. Reality dealt a harsh blow, however, as the matches progressed: The west has traditionally been the weakest of Maryland's four districts, and the Blazers who had placed well at regionals found themselves overwhelmed by lesser seeds from other parts of the state. Though the Blazers fought valiantly, their combined 35 team points only merited a 20th place ranking. Sophomore Josh Osorto (103) and senior Muamba Muanankese (215) were the only Blazers to capture top six-finishes.
Osorto began the night with two consecutive victories, easily defeating both Franklin junior Steve Silberman and Old Mill freshman Greg Saumenig with impressive 16-point margins, scoring 22 and 20 points, respectively, against the two opponents. The victories allowed Osorto to advance to the semifinal round, where he faced tougher competition: River Hill sophomore and northern region first seed Taylor Green.
Though the two wrestlers were nearly evenly matched, Green managed to take the upper hand as the rounds progressed, narrowly outscoring Osorto 6-2 to advance to the final round. Osorto, meanwhile, moved to the consolation round, defeating Sherwood freshman Andrew Lowry in an intense 8-6 overtime match to guarantee himself a third or fourth place ranking. Though Osorto struggled to score a pin during his final match against Linganore sophomore Casey Marwine, he was unable to overcome his opponent, and claimed fourth place after Marwine scored an extra takedown for a narrow 6-4 Linganore victory.
Senior Muamba Muanankese began the night with a similarly promising win, defeating Westminister senior Eric Burr in the preliminary match with a 13-7 win by decision. He had the misfortune, however, of facing off against Bowie junior and southern region first seed Zak Adomanis, who pinned his first-round opponent in just 36 seconds. While Adomanis was unable to pin Muanankese quite so easily, he did score a single takedown, and the match concluded with a 3-1 score in Adomanis' favor.
Unwillingly relegated to the consolation round, Muanankese vented his frustration in his match against Chopticon senior Nick Dyson, wrestling what was perhaps his best round of the night and scoring a 3:35 pin-fall. Buoyed by his victory, Muanankese went on to defeat North County senior Gary Frye, taking down his opponent four times for a 9-3 victory. His energy faltered by the semifinal round, however, allowing Patterson junior Dashawn Barrett to score 8 points to his own 3. Though Muanankese still had a chance to capture fifth place, the intense rounds of wrestling had caused several old injuries to flare up, and he chose to forfeit to Calvert senior Shawn Englert and accept sixth place instead of risking further injury.
Senior Hansel Cedeno (189), who entered the night with a perfect record as the west's first seed, also began the tournament with his usual confidence and skill, defeating Milton Wright senior and eastern region fourth seed Bobby Moore in a decisive 1:41 pin-fall, continuing the pattern of first-period wins that he has established this season. Cedeno's undefeated season met an abrupt end in the quarterfinal rounds, however, in a match against Thomas Johnson senior and northern region second seed Mark Esmont. The two grappled inconclusively through the first period and much of the second; late in the second period, Esmont scored a surprise takedown and cradle, pinning Cedeno with just three seconds left in the round and forcing him down to the consolation round.
There, Cedeno struggled to regain his composure, overcoming Arundel junior Brad Pendock in an uncharacteristically lengthy 8-4 match. His next match against Calvert junior and southern region first seed Phil Riley proved a bit shorter, though equally out of character: Riley lunged for Cedeno and scored a pin just two seconds into the second period of the match, effectively destroying Cedeno's hopes for placing at the tournament.
Seniors Cesa Sosa (119) and Scott Nguyen (112) suffered even more devastating losses, both falling by decision in the preliminary rounds. Sosa then went on to defeat both Gwynn Park senior Delonte Millings and Wheaton junior Alejandro Zea, but suffered a loss in the consolation quarterfinal round in a bitter 19-4 match against Calvert sophomore and southern region first seed Ryan Buff. Nguyen, meanwhile, immediately fell to sophomore Steve Gelety of Chesapeake-Anne Arundel, a loss that destroyed his hopes of placing in the tournament and marked a bitter end to his four-year high school wrestling career.
The tournament's conclusion will also mark the departure of Blair's most successful crop of wrestlers since it lost its county powerhouse status two years ago. The five Blair wrestlers who entered the tournament were the only Blazers with winning records this season, and all five will be leaving the team this year. Cedeno, Muanankese, Nguyen, and Sosa will all graduate this June, while Osorto plans to transfer to Whitman, which holds both the county and regional team titles, at the start of next year.
"I love my team," Osorto said, "but there's not going to be much of a team next year, so I might as well go to Whitman, where there is a team." While the validity of his prediction remains to be seen, the loss of its five strongest wrestlers will indeed have a powerful detrimental effect on Blair's team, and the team that has just clawed itself back up from last year's 3-11 record may very well find itself struggling once more with the prospect of another dismal season.
Kristina Yang. Kristina Yang is 1/10 of the Blair girls' volleyball team. When not on the court, she most likely to be running away from Magnet math homework, trying to pay off her three speeding/redlight tickets, or feeding her bubble tea addiction. She would also like to ... More »