Despite technical mistakes and lack of composure the Blazers pull out a win
In their first match back from winter break, the Blair Blazers (14-4) worked hard to take down the Gaithersburg Trojans (1-4) maintaining a lead throughout the event and eventually taking the night 53-15. Having had only one practice since winter break, the team was not as crisp or keen as they had been in past matches, but they were able to pull out a win despite some mistakes.
Freshman Brian McCaw (106) opened the event strong with a takedown in the first period. Starting on the offensive in the second period he proceeded to rack up match points, holding his opponent in a near fall twice. Starting in the defensive in the third round McCaw upped his lead with two reversals bringing the match score to 12-2 and giving Blair an early 4-0 lead.
A last minute substitute for Muhammad Baig (113), sophomore Aidan Rogers fought hard early on in the match, but ended the first period down 2-4. Starting in the defensive in the second period, Rogers found his footing with an escape followed by a take down and a near pin of his opponent before the clock ran out. He ended his match with the highest match point total of the night, 13-4, and brought Blair up to an 8-0 lead.
Gaithersburg forfeited the match against Ryan Handel (120) again raising the team score to 14-0.
Junior Biruk Tona (126) and sophomore Sho Takeshita (132) both fought hard for their first two periods but were eventually bested, losing by match points. This evened out the team scores to 14-6 with Blair still maintaining a substantial lead.
Senior Bryan Huynh (138) brought back the Blazers' momentum, gaining the first pin of the night at 1:10. Despite allowing his opponent to escape early in the period, Huynh was able to gain back his footing bringing Blair's lead up 20-6. "I wrestled decently. There's a couple things I can work on but I'm glad I won," said Huynh.
Gaithersburg forfeited its second match of the night against sophomore Jason Kaplan (145) awarding 6 more points to Blair.
Senior Noah Chopra-Khan (152) fought through a tough match, resisting a pin in the second period and escaping his opponent's hold in the third, but ended up losing the match 1-7, giving 3 points to Gaithersburg bringing the team scores to 26-9.
Wrestling in the place of senior captain Ryan Holland, Junior Varsity's Nimesh Fonseka (160) worked hard but was pinned in the first period. Right out of the gate, Fonseka was taken down but managed to escape after a near fall. He made another escape towards the end of the round gaining back his footing but was finally pinned with 46 seconds remaining on the clock, bringing the team scores to 26-15.
Senior Pelumi Akinpelu (170) came out tentative for one of the most suspenseful matches of the night. A series of takedowns by both sides left the match score tied in the third period with Akinpelu on the mat, taken down by his opponent. He let the clock run, balling up to resist a pin but also not attempting an escape until ten seconds remained on the clock, at which point he burst free winning the match by one point and bringing Blair's score to 29-15.
Senior Leo West (182) brought up the night's energy in a fast paced match ending in Blair's second pin. Fighting hard through the first and second periods, West racked up points with two takedowns and two near falls. Starting in the defensive in the third period, West was able to make a stunning escape, flipping his opponent and pinning him with 1:02 left on the clock, raising Blair's lead to 35-15.
Building on the team's momentum, sophomore Joel Paulino (195) came out strong with a definitive takedown in the first period. Escaping the defensive and completing another takedown in the second period, Paulio finally pinned his opponent at 2:28 in the third period giving Blair a decisive 41-15 lead.
Senior Rudy Nagouni (220) came out looking calm and prepared and pinned his opponent in just 41 seconds, the fastest time of the night adding 6 points to Blair's substantial lead.
In the final match of the night, sophomore Mervin Mancia (285) won handedly and chalked up Blair's fourth pin. Though coming out aggressively, Mancia had to escape an early takedown, and fought through fatigue to eventually pin his opponent at 1:23. "I feel great, but I know I didn't do my best. I got a little tired in the beginning of the match, I got a little too aggressive and I guess I kind of burned out just a little bit," Mancia explained.
Mancia sees room for not just him but all of his teammates to improve after watching the match, "I believe that we could have done better. We looked a little slow, not as we were during tournament, or before winter break, so I know that there's still a lot of improvement that we can do," Mancia said.
Head Coach Tim Grover was not impressed with the team's performance either, despite the 53-15 win. He acknowledged that the team had very little practice time coming into the match right after break, and were probably not at the top of their game. "I wasn't really excited about the way we wrestled we won the match by a big score but I thought we were very sloppy and rusty. We've only really had one practice since before break and I think that really showed tonight," said Grover.
Grover still has high expectations for his team for the rest of the season, now that the break is over and training can continue. "We're normally the best conditioned team in the county if not beyond. Having the practice time will really allow us to push the pace more," he explained.
The Blazers hope to continue their success against Calvert Hall, Westminster, Mervin, and Bowie at Hammond High School on Friday, Jan. 13 at 5:00
Editor's note: Ryan Handel is an editor for Silver Chips Online
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