Senior Nolan Smith won eight bouts at 145 pounds during last weekend’s Rockville Rumble Duals at Rockville High to pass the 100-career wins milestone with 105 for Paint Branch, while J.D. FitzPatrick split time at 138 and 145 pounds to come within a win of tying Walter Johnson’s all-time career victories mark at the Iron Horse Duals at C. Milton Wright High of Bel Air in Harford County.
Smith led Paint Branch to the overall title in the dual meet event, improving to 19-0 on the year – an honor meaning more given his having to overcome an injured right shoulder suffered early last year and endured throughout much of his junior year.
“It’s a nice milestone that I was aiming for, and it means a lot more given the fact that I had to overcome an injury last year,” said Smith, who has twice placed third at counties and was fifth at regions during his sophomore season.
“It was the first match after winter break last year against Walter Johnson, I was on bottom and I felt my left shoulder pop out. That pretty much killed my confidence for much of the year because there were matches where it would pop out and it was super painful.”
But Smith said that his troubles are behind him after having had surgery in April to repair the damaged shoulder.
“I had a chance to lift weights,” said Smith. “Now I feel as if I’m actually wrestling better than ever.”
Sophomore sibling Austin Smith (195) and juniors Brian Trinh (106) and Dhedhus Anugmba (152) also finished at 8-0, teammate Tom Bettinger (170) went 7-0, and senior Abu Abdillah (182) and Wafeu Fuondjing (220) won seven of eight bouts apiece for Paint Branch.
Chris Pamah (160) was victorious in five of six, and senior Rysean Grant (126) and Javan Menzies (285) were 6-2 for the Panthers (16-4), who overcame St. Mary’s Ryken of St. Mary’s County, 37-36, in the championship match.
“In the final match, we were down, 36-34,” said Nolan Smith.” “I tech falled a kid to make it 36-34, and Dheduce was the last match, so he had to win and he did it with a grinder of a six minute match, winning, 6-2.”
Coach Rick Smith is the father of Nolan and Austin, the latter of whom was a fourth-place county finisher last season.
“We had a great practice going into the tournament,” said Rick Smith. “It showed in the way that the kids wrestled. We had a good weekend, and hopefully that’s momentum going into our tournament next weekend.”
FitzPatrick has wrestled at 138 for the third straight year, having been county runner-up, a third-place regional finisher, sixth place at states as a sophomore and third at counties, second at regions and third at states last year.
At C. Milton Wright, FitzPatrick went 6-1, pinning five opponents and winning a sixth bout by technical fall to improve to 13-2 on the year with his 126th career win – one shy of tying the school-record of 127.
FitzPatrick was coming off an 8-4 loss to Penn State-bound Scottie Obendorfer of Damascus, a threetime county and regional champion who has placed first and second at the past two state tournaments.
A loser to Obendorfer’s older brother, Cory, in the county finals two years ago, FitzPatrick earned Outstanding Wrestler honors in the December 9-10 Mad Mats Tournament at Magruder, pinning three opponents winning his quarterfinal, 14- 5.
At Magruder, FitzPatrick trailed his semifinal, 2-0, before decking Virginia’s fifth-place state finisher, Joshua Garber of James River, in 5:53, and won his title bout in 5:21 over Bullis’ IAC champion Marcelo Motta, who finished sixth at last year’s private schools state tournament.
“It’s pretty exciting to be close to the record, but I try not to think at it and continue focusing on winning one match at a time,” said FitzPatrick. “My matches weren’t that close in the tournament, but I switched weight classes and can go anywhere from 138 to 145. I haven’t decided yet.”
Also wrestling well for the Wildcats, who were 5-2 for the tournament, were Leo Saucedo (285) at 7-0 with two pins, Andrew Masison (113) at 5-1, and, Kemper Stearns (120) at 5-2.
“The last couple of days were good for the team,” said FitzPatrick, whose father, Geary, is the Wildcats’ head coach. “After wrestling Damascus, we sort of came together and some guys were able to get some wins to build their confidence up again.”