First-year Good Counsel coach Kevin Phelps will be an adversary of former pupil Cam Watkins this season after once guiding Watkins during his time as an assistant to wrestling coach Max Sartoph at Magruder High.
Watkins, who won a Class 4A-3A state title as a senior before graduating from Magruder in 2005, begins his second season at the helm for the St. John’s Cadets wrestling team, who last year dethroned the Falcons as Washington Catholic Athletic Conference dual and tournament champions.
Phelps has replaced Skylar Saar at Good Counsel, which was a four-time tournament champion before St. John’s became the event’s titlists for the first time since 1979; this after the Cadets’ 34-32 dual meet victory ended the Falcons’ four-year winning streak in WCAC matches at 55.
“This will be my first time being at the helm and going against Cam, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Phelps. “Our returners have been working hard and know what to expect. We’ve definitely got a good core returning, but we’re very young with five freshmen in the lineup who are focusing on development.”
Back for the Falcons are seniors Cord Richardson (132) and Alwyn Taylor (182), juniors Cole Robilotto (152) and Avery Miller (160), and sophomore Conor Lozupone (113).
Lozupone was a runner-up at last year’s Melee on The Metro at Gonzaga High, where Richardson, Robilotto and Miller were third. Richardson was third in the private school’s state tournament, where Lozupone was fifth, and Robilotto and Miller, eighth.
“Lozupone and Richardson were a match shy from placing at National Preps, so I expect them to do very well,” said Phelps, whose Falcons will compete in this weekend’s Mad Mats Invitational at Magruder. “I just finished the lineup for Mad Mats. Some weights will change, week to week.”
Seeing early action will be freshman Daniel Henry (106), Heidi Richardson (120), Bryce Holt (126), Raphael Caicedo-Borja (138) and Lucas Suri (220), as well as sophomores Jack Stefanelli (145), Peter Slear (170) and Brandon Roberts (285).
Interstate Athletic Conference teams Bullis and Landon will join Good Counsel amid the 22-team field at Magruder, as will Gaithersburg, Kennedy, Poolesville, Richard Montgomery and Walter Johnson.
A two-time champion returning to Mad Mats is Landon senior Brendon Gallagher (152), whose teammates, junior Jelani Machen (170) and sophomore Lorenzo Lopez (126) were second and third a year ago.
Gallagher won an Interstate Athletic Conference crown after being runner-up as a sophomore, was a private school state runner-up last year, finished eighth at National Preps, and with 112 wins to his name, is five shy of the Bears’ record for individual victories.
The Bears finished 12th at last year’s private schools’ state tournament, where IAC runner-up Machen, senior returning IAC champion Carter Johnson (195) and sophomore IAC champ Patrick Kielb (138) all placed sixth, and junior IAC runner-up Terrence Bridgers (285) was eighth.
Lopez, another IAC champ, is part of a solid group that Landon head coach Andy Katz hopes can dethrone 13-time IAC champion Georgetown Prep.
“Last year’s team went 15-7, and this team is hoping to do even better,” said Katz. “After losing only three seniors to graduation, the final lineup will be determined at our first dual meet.”
The Bears received a big transfer in junior Axel Giron (120), who went 31-2 at Parkdale of Prince George’s County.
Giron lost his Class 4A-3A state title bout, 3-2, to repeat champion Brent Lorin of Harford County’s Bel Air, who has yet to lose a high school bout. Giron also defeated C.J. Cramma – Magruder’s third-place finisher from last year’s state meet – in the state semifinals.
Also seeing action for the Bears will be junior Patrick Townsend (113), senior Luc Schermer (145), senior Nick Haller (195), senior Joel Desroches (220), sophomore Matt Amitay or junior Thomas Johnson at 132, and junior Jonny Gherman, sophomore Marc Schermer or sophomore Jerrold Johnson at 160.
From a Bullis team that won 11 of 24 dual meets, the Bulldogs graduated Aryemis Brown, the second of three boys for whom wrestling has become a family tradition at Bullis, where their father Chris is an assistant to Ali Elias.
Aryemis won three IAC titles, was twice third at private school states, and seventh at National Preps before heading off to Air Force – his father’s alma mater – where his older sibling Alexander is a sophomore.
“We lost two seniors who won 110 matches between them,” said Elias. “This will be a building year with promising young talent.”
Returning to a team that finished eighth at private school states is sophomore Austin Brown (160), winner of 37 bouts and an IAC crown as a freshman last season.
Other returning IAC champs are sophomore Isaac Ruderman (132) and senior Ethan Sypes (220), with Ruderman earning Outstanding Wrestler honors. Junior Bazin Sineshaw (126) finished eighth at states, where Sypes was fifth and Ruderman sixth.
Sophomore Leondre Ingram (152) was a junior varsity champion and sophomore Liam Handel (145) won 28 varsity bouts. Big things are expected from freshman Nick Essepian (120), junior Matthew Gelb (182), senior Douglas Hayes (170) and sophomores Parker Merrill (138) and Joey Chmara (195).