Team finishes low, individual wrestlers advance
The wrestling team finished in 23rd place with 13 points, tying with Kennedy High School, at the county tournament held at Blair Friday and Saturday. Out of the 25 schools that competed, Whitman finished in first with 213 points.
Unfortunately, several Blazers did not advance very far in the tournament. Anthony Jankoski (119), Steven Staley (130) and Edwin Salvador (135) were unable to defeat their opponents in the first match.
Sophomore Bill Saturno (125) advanced the furthest in the tournament, wrestling in a total of five matches to make it to the quarterfinals. In his second match Saturno faced Ryan Bausch of Damascus, to whom he had lost earlier in the season, but managed to emerge victorious (6-4) in this second encounter. Saturno was finally knocked out of contention for the championships after he lost 7-3, by decision, to Einstein's Jorge Villatoro, with whom he had also had a close match during the season. Saturno expressed remorse for this loss. "I thought I could beat him that match but I couldn't get it done," he said.
Senior captain Johni Meeks (152) was able to win his first match quite easily against Rockville's Jonathan Puhi, pinning him in the first period. However, Meeks found his second opponent, Walter Johnson's Elad Covaliu, a much more difficult opponent and lost by decision 4-2. Meeks noticed that a big weakness he had during his match was his positioning on the mat from which he had a harder time overwhelming his opponent. Unfortunately, Meeks was forced to forfeit his matches in the second day of tournament because he did not meet the weight mark.
Junior captain Jeff Garcia (160) was also successful in his first round but was knocked out of contention for the championships early on. Garcia wrestled his first match against Lance Ingram of B-CC, and while it was a very close match, he eventually lost 8-7.
Sophomore David Chow suffered in his first match when he was pinned by his opponent, Nick Wodoslawsky of Damascus. Chow wrestled a second match against Churchill's Chris Lee, who he had defeated earlier in the season, but was pinned during this match. Chow felt it was both a surprise and disappointment. Chow cited his shoulders, which were recovering from and injury earlier in the season, as a detrimental factor to his performance. "Whenever an opponent puts weight on my shoulder or moves it to an awkward position I become afraid to move it and hurt it again," Chow explained. "My coaches always tell me not to think about my shoulders and push through the pain but that's really hard to do."
Wrestlers also felt that the pressure of wrestling multiple matches in an ongoing tournament, as opposed to just an individual meet, impacted their performance. "After the first day of tournament I was sore and fatigue was setting in," Saturno said. Chow added that the lack of team spirit that exists at regular meets had a psychological influence on his wrestling. "Counties is more individual, and I think it's harder to motivate myself," he said.
Coach Jacob Scott stated that he was largely disappointed with the overall outcome, but recognized the efforts of individual wrestlers. He was particularly proud of those who wrestled formidably against opponents they had met previously throughout the season. "Those were glimmers of encouragement," he said. Meeks still upheld praise for the team, especially for the younger wrestlers who filled much of the varsity lineup. "They showed great improvement over the season and I hope they take that going into next year," he said.
Meeks and Saturno will compete at the regional competitions on Saturday as the number six and eight seeds, respectively. Chow and Garcia will go as alternates.
Correction: Aziz Mbaye forfeited and did not compete in the tournament due to weight.
The regional tournament will be held Saturday, February 26 at Sherwood High School.
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