Nearly a year ago to the day, Landon’s Jelani Machen was out of wrestling, having suffered a broken arm early in a tournament.
So the Bears’ sophomore has been catching up this season, most recently with a superlative effort in last weekend’s Battlin’ Barons Duals at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High.
Machen won all five bouts, including two by fall while splitting time between the 160- and 170- pound weight classes, with a 6-0 shutout the host Barons’ previously unbeaten county runner-up and fourth-place regional finisher Seamus Selmi being among his wins.
Selmi is known as a “leg wrestler” who employs the strength in his lower limbs to immobilize the extremities of opponents while working for the fall, and the sophomore used that technique to defeat Southern of Anne Arundel County’s fourth-place state finisher, Josh Merkle, 7-5, during their matchup.
“I know Seamus is good, but Jelani was never worried,” said Ron Machen, Jenali’s father. “We were trying to figure out why everybody was making it a big deal.”
That’s because Jelani Machen’s long been familiar with Selmi’s style.
“I was pretty confident coming in. I would go to Maryland summer camp and he would always be there,” said Machen. “Before the match, everybody was like ‘This guy’s really good,’ but I’m not really one to be afraid of anybody – especially somebody that I know like that.”
Selmi trailed, 2-0, after the first period, 4-0, after a second-period takedown and, 6-0 following a thirdperiod reversal after Selmi “chose top but never got the legs in,” Machen said.
“My first takedown was off a fake that he bit on, and as he was rising back up, I did a low single, got behind him and rode him out pretty much the entire match with a cross face. I had his leg and was working for the cradle, and if he over committed, I was going to the turk or the barb wire,” said Machen.
“Second period, I chose neutral and took him down with my third shot after having his leg on two other shots. I went for a blast double and took him down in the second. Third period, I knew the legs were coming, but I was quicker, more athletic, got out really quick and was able to beat him off the whistle and switch on him. I caught him off guard before he could throw the legs in.”
An intriguing clash between Machen and unbeaten senior Aryemis Brown of Bullis never materialized during the Bears’ 45-30 victory over the Bulldogs as Machen beat his 160-pound Bullis rival and Brown his 170-pound Landon opponent.
“Our usual 160-pounder was banged up, and Brown usually wrestles at 160, so we thought he was going 160,” said Machen of Brown, who pinned four of six opponents, blanked Selmi, 5-0, and was named Outstanding Wrestler.
“Right before the match, coach said to be ready to go 160. I was warming up and coach said if it’s not Brown, then I would need to get the pin. I went out there and didn’t get a chance to wrestle him.”
Machen also pinned his way into the 170-pound finals of the Magruder Tournament finals, where lost, 5-3, to Good Counsel’s Ryan Briggs.
at the Battlin’ Duals were IAC runner-up Brendon Gallagher (145) at 5-0, and Patrick Kielb (106), Lorenzo Lopez (120) and Carter Johnson (195), all of whom won four of five bouts.
A junior and two-time Magruder champion, Gallagher had four pins and a technical fall, but Lopez had the more interesting tournament, pinning twice with a major decision and a 3-2 victory over the Barons’ county and regional champion Eli Guttentag, who was third at Class 4A-3A states.
“First period was a slow start with Guttentag, but in the second period, I switched right away and was up, 2-0. Then he got a reversal on me and it was tied, 2-2,” said Lopez. “But I got out at the end and was up, 3-2, going into the third period. I rode him out for the entire period, and that was the match.”
An earlier third-place finisher at Magruder, where he lost, 8-7, to eventual champion Gavin Stoddard of St. John’s of Washington, D.C., Lopez led, 7-0, “but got caught in a cradle” and decked by Eric Smith of Queen Anne’s High in Queen Anne’s County, said Landon coach Andy Katz.
“I slacked off a little bit against Smith, chose bottom and got caught. Smith lost to the guy from Springbrook that I beat easily (by 13-4),” said Lopez. “The Stoddard match, I was shooting with my head down, and he capitalized really easy. I was able to come back on him, but it was too little too late.”
Johnson registered pins in each of his four victories, and Kielb had a pin and a major decision.