Churchill’s Lucas Young completed a worst to first journey on Saturday at Gaithersburg High, where the third-year wrestler overcame a pair of Maryland’s top wrestlers to win the most difficult division of the 55th annual Montgomery County Tournament.
Trailing 3-2 in the second period, Young reversed Johnny McLaughlin of Damascus and clung to a 4-3 victory, earning the 120-pound title after having gone a combined 3-6 in the past two county tournaments and one regional appearance.
A slender 5-foot-7 senior who avenged an earlier 8-2 loss to McLaughlin, Young was similarly successful in his semifinal bout, overcoming a 2-0 deficit for a 4-2 decision over Eli Guttentag of Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
That’s quite an accomplishment given that Guttentag and McLaughlin were coming off incredible freshman seasons, the former going 44-1 to place first at counties and regions and third at the Class 4A-3A states at 106 pounds, and the latter doing the same three things at 113 to finish at 39-4.
“Lucas started wrestling as a sophomore,” said Churchill coach Tim Lowe, a two-time state champion at Einstein whose assistant Tony Howard, who won three state titles at Magruder where he went a career 105-1.“He’s an incredibly dedicated and coachable kid who has done everything we’ve asked of him. He’s having a fantastic year, and we couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Young’s victory motivated junior teammate Jack Connolly (126), who followed with a title-winning 10-0 shutout of Sherwood’s Chase Wilson.
“That was just incredible. Amazing,” said Connolly, a returning county and regional runner-up who finished fourth at states last season.
“When Lucas won, I tried to keep my calm because I was freaking out on the inside. I honestly didn’t see it going that way.”
Born in Evanston, Illinois, to a Brazilian mother and American father, Young moved to Sao Paolo, Brazil when he was only few months old,.
It was there that he embraced soccer, that country’s national sport.
“My mother’s from Brazil, so my parents wanted me to have a bit of both experiences,” said Young. “I played soccer my whole life up until my sophomore year. I played goalie until I moved to the U.S., then I switched to midfielder and striker.”
Young returned to Evanston in 2008, arrived in Maryland during the summer of 2010, and was discovered by Lowe during a physical education class near the same time he was experiencing a minor crisis in soccer.
“I was originally going to start wrestling as a freshman, but I broke my finger playing soccer in Brazil over the summer,” said Young.
“I had surgery the week wrestling started my freshman year. I wasn’t 100 percent about wrestling as a sophomore. But Coach Lowe was my gym teacher and he convinced me to come out and try it and I loved it. I dropped soccer as soon as I started wrestling.”
As a sophomore, Young was pinned twice in as many county tournament bouts, finishing 14-18 at the end of that initial season.
As a junior, Young went 1-2 at counties, sandwiching a fall between a first-round 6-5 overtime loss to county and region runner-up T.J. Macklin of Damascus and a 1-0 consolations loss to Nauman Funyas of Blair, who placed sixth at 126 pounds on Saturday.
But Young began showing improvement during last year’s sixth place finish at regions, winning his pig tail bout, 11-4, over Clarksburg’s Nick Gonzalez, avenging his loss to Funyas, 8-1, in overtime and losing his quarterfinal, 11-4, to eventual champion Antonio Lopez of Quince Orchard.
Young lost his next two bouts, 4-0 to Poolesville’s Brian Truppo and 6-0 to Sherwood’s Wilson, Saturday’s runner-up to Connolly. But at the end of his junior year, Young delivered a statement, particularly with his triumph over Gonzalez, who used two each in pins and major decision to win Saturday’s 138-pound county title.
Now a year-round wrestler for The High 5 Wrestling Club, Young “started using legs last year,” he said of a tactic that employs the lower extremities to immobilize his opponents’ while working for the fall.
“When Lucas is riding legs, he’s aware of where he is at all times,” said Lowe. “I’m never worried as long as he listens and makes adjustments whenever we let him know that he might be in danger.”
The skill requires balance and confidence, given the ride can involve precariously exposing one’s back to the mat. It usually takes years to master, certainly more than the almost three he’s been involved in wrestling.
“When I’m on my back, I’ll do whatever to get out, no matter what,” said Young, who carries a weighted 3.47 grade average and plans to study communications at Penn State. “I listen to my coaches the entire time. I’m never worried.”
On Saturday, Guttentag finished third following a 2-1 victory over Clarksburg senior Ryan Crosby, himself an accomplished wrestler. A 7-1 semifinal loser to McLaughlin, Crosby improved on his fifth place finish as a sophomore after having placed fourth and third in each of the past two regionals.
So deep was the 120-pound division that both Truppo and Wootton junior Jake Warner were displaced. Truppo finished a career-low fifth after having twice been third during each of the previous seasons and third in the regions last year.
A 6-0 regular season loser to Young, Warner failed to place after having been fourth as a sophomore and twice finishing sixth at regions.
Young also owns a 4-0 dual meet victory over Walter Johnson junior Kemper Stearns, who place third at 113 on Saturday after being county runner-up and taking third at regions as a sophomore.
“Lucas beat two state placers and who were county champions last year to win it,” said Lowe. “That weight class was so deep, and with the quality of opponents, no question he’s the OW.”
Young’s other losses this year were by 5-3 in overtime against Truppo, 5-2, against regional runner-up Chris Kirchner of Anne Arundel County’s North County High, and by fall against Anthony Bruno of Virginia’s West Springfield.
“I beat Truppo, Warner and a couple of other good guys,” said Young. “But McLaughlin is definitely my biggest win, and I’m really happy about that.”