Tough competition brings closer matches for Blazers
The Blair Blazers (6-0) beat the Quince Orchard Cougars (6-3) and the Wootton Patriots (0-3), with scores of 36-30 and 60-18 respectively. Key victories by senior Bryan Huynh, junior Ernest Son, senior Ryan Holland and junior Biruk Tona helped Blair edge out a victory over the Cougars. Finding redemption in their second matches of the day, sophomore Joel Paulino as well as seniors Ryan Handel and Leo West carried the team towards a win against Wootton along with consistently strong efforts by senior Rudy Ngougni and sophomore Mervin Mancia.
Huynh (138) opened the match strong against Quince Orchard, scoring 5 points in the first period with a quick take down and a near fall. In the second period he increased his lead to 13 points, scoring 3 more takedowns and a near pin. Huynh used a gator roll to earn a pin 20 seconds into the third period.
Blair's 6-0 lead was lost with a pin by Quince Orchard's Alejandro Lopez, who placed third in the state, during the second match against Noah Chopra-Khan (145). Holland (152) quickly retook the Blazer lead with his pin in the next match. He got the first takedown at 15 seconds and finished with a pin in just 26 seconds.
Son (160) continued Holland's aggressiveness, and dominated the first period. He took down his opponent and scored a near fall before the period was up. In the second period he was quicker to take control, and it paid off with a pin via cement mixer at 2:48, bringing the score to 18-6.
Seniors Pelumi Akinpelu (170), West (182) and Paulino (195) battled strong for 3 periods each, but none was able to come out on top, leaving Blair with a tighter lead at 18-15. Ngougni (220) came out strong in the eighth match and pulled Blair ahead another 6 points with a pin in 58 seconds.
Mervin Mancia (285) and Brian McCaw (106) both displayed strategy and skill in edging out over opponents much larger than themselves. While neither pinned their opponent, they showed impressive amounts of persistence and each scored 3 points for Blair.
After getting ahead 30-15, the Blazers suffered two losses in the matches to Muhammad Baig (113) and Ryan Handel (120). The Blazers had again let their lead dwindle to only 6 points, or just one pin. In the second to last match, Biruk Tona (126) clinched the win for the Blazers with a stunning pin in only 12 seconds, increasing the lead to an insurmountable 36-24 gap. "I was relieved because that was a critical match, we had to win that match. I just worked hard, I was like, "stay aggressive, just attack attack, don't give up just keep going don't stop," Tona said.
Sophomore Sho Takeshita (132) fought hard in the last match, but after getting taken down and ending up on his side, his opponent quickly took control and pinned him. Nevertheless, the Blazers were able to finish the match with a 36-30 win.
Head Coach Tim Grover wished that the match hadn't been so close. "I was a little nervous because I thought we could have won a lot more matches than we did. I was a little disappointed that we made a lot more mistakes than I was expecting," Grover said.
Grover attributed the close margin of victory to technical errors, and Tona agreed. "I think we need to work on pacing. We should have gotten takedowns at some parts but we failed to, like taking shots when you see the opportunity, taking advantage when they make a mistake to capitalize on that," Tona explained.
The Blazers took a couple minutes to debrief after the match against Quince Orchard to come back with clear heads going into the next match with Wootton, their easier competitor of the night.
Despite an initial loss in the first match by Noah Chopra-Khan by a pin from Wooton at 2:30, Blair quickly gained a lofty lead due to the next three matches being forfeited by the Patriots. Ahead 18-6, the gap between the teams only grew as the afternoon progressed.
West battled through another tough match, but unlike against his first opponent, was able to slowly gain more control throughout the match in order to eventually pin him. In the third period, after his opponent took ahold of his leg, West was able to defend the shot, and use a cement mixer to get the pin. He pinned his opponent at 4:23, to increase Blair's lead to 24-6.
Paulino improved on his pacing in the second match, and wasted less time in dominating his opponent. After taking his opponent down to his back, Paulino was able to counter his opponents efforts to escape, to finish with a pin at 1:32. Ngougni's second match was very similar, as he showed composure and an aggressive attack throughout the period. After 3 attempts in the first minute to shoot at his opponents legs, Ngoungi finally got the takedown in the second minute and ended with a pin at 1:29.
Mancia had improvement in his second match, and despite a penalty at the beginning for an illegal slam, he was able to use a high crotch takedown and a half nelson to squeeze in a pin before the end of the first period at 1:48.
Up 42-6, Blair had almost secured their win with 6 matches still left to play. McCaw and Baig both stayed dedicated during their 6 minutes, but technical flaws caused them to miss out on the win, with Wootton scoring 3 points in each match. But by not getting pinned, they were able to help Blair secure the victory, with Wootton mathematically unable to get enough points to come back.
After an loss in the first match, Handel came out strong and confidently against his Wootton opponent. He wasted little time in getting the pin 43 seconds into the match. Tona came out with the same attitude as Handel and continued his quick maneuvers and aggressive attitude from his first match to get another impressive pin in the first period.
Wootton scored 6 points for a pin in the second to last match against Takeshita, before Blair took the last 6 points for a forfeit to Huynh to end the match at 60-18.
Grover plans to keep ironing out small flaws in order to out work their opponents. "We haven't fulfilled our potential as a team yet, so we're still working on that. We have to keep working on the little things and focus on the details," he said. But as of yet, the Blazers have yet to meet their match as they continue their impressive start to the season.
The Blazers will wrestle again on Tuesday Dec. 19 at Kennedy HS at 6:15 p.m.
Editor's Note: Ryan Handel is an editor for Silver Chips Online
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