The Landon wrestling team has, for the most part, begun this season as it ended last year’s: winning.
The defending Interstate Athletic Conference champion Bears won their season-opening, non-conference match, 60-24, over visiting Sidwell Friends in an event streamed live from their wrestling room.
“We have a core of top wrestlers that will lead the way,” said coach Andy Katz, in his 24th year at Landon, whose Bears nailed down eight pins in 14 bouts.
“Our lineup was comprised of seven seasoned veterans and seven first- or second-year wrestlers. Our season as a team will depend on guys stepping up to help out the program who do not necessarily have much experience on the mat.”
Last year’s Bears placed seven wrestlers for a program-best sixth-place finish at private schools states, were school-record mark of 16-5 overall in dual meets and went 5-0 in the IAC, earning their first outright league crown since 1994.
The effort at private schools states was a continuation of a groundbreaking season by the Bears, who won their first IAC tournament championship in Katz’s tenure.
The Bears improved on their previous season’s 12th place finish at states, with the previous highest place being seventh in 2001 with six place-winners. Last season’s seven place-winners at states was “The highest in school history,” according to Katz.
In succession against Sidwell, first-year senior Miles Tonkel (220) pinned in 1:45, second-year sophomore Nate Zola (113) did so in the second-period, senior Patrick Townsend (120) won by forfeit, senior Axel Giron (126), by fall in 1:06, and junior Lorenzo Lopez (132), freshman Mansoor Delane (138), and junior Patrick Kielb (145) in 18-, 28-, and 51-seconds.
Junior Lucas Anderson (152) finished his opponent in 2:56, and junior Jerrold Johnson (170) and senior Jelani Machen (182) in 3:43 and 26-seconds.
Over the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 weekend, the Bears split their teams into the most and least experienced. Four of the former attended McDonogh of Baltimore’s Ray Oliver Tournament, and the rest of the latter, that at The St. James School in Hagerstown of Washington County.
The Bears finished 11th over at McDonogh, where Lopez won three of four bouts to finish second, Giron, four of five to finish third, and Matt Amitay (138), three of five for fourth place.
Landon was ninth at St. James, with Delane (138) and Johnson (170) placing third, and sophomore Lucas MacDonald (160), fourth. The Bears will compete at Friday and Saturday’s Magruder Tournament.
The Bears are coming off a groundbreaking year, being sixth at the 30-team private schools state tournament won by Mount St. Joseph of Baltimore. Landon, at states, finished ahead of two-time former private schools state champion Good Counsel (eighth) and IAC rivals Georgetown Prep (12th) and Bullis (16th).
Lopez became Landon’s first state champion a year after an illness prevented him from competing at the IACs and state tournaments.
Lopez and Kielb earned their second straight IAC crowns, and Machen, his first after being a runner-up in last year’s event. Lopez was named Outstanding Wrestler at IACs.
The Bears’ improvement on the previous season’s 15-7 season was due in part to the transfer of Giron, a junior who went 31-2 at Parkdale of Prince George’s County, where he was a Class 4A-3A state runner-up.
Lopez and Giron each won 44 matches a year ago. Machen went 32-4 and finished fourth at private school states.
Giron won 44 matches, an IAC title and was third at the private schools state tournament. Giron also won six of eight bouts, pinning twice, to earn All-American honors with his fourth-place finish at 113 pounds in the March 23-25 National High School Coaches’ Association tournament at The Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Kielb and IAC champion Jonny Gherman (160) won 14 and 28 bouts, with Kielb also finishing eighth at private schools states. Townsend won 16 bouts and place third at IACs.
Amitay won 26 matches, and juniors Johnson and Marc Schermer (152) won 15 bouts each.
Katz also said he is encouraged by the progress of freshmen Delane (138) and classmate Zach Osmond (106) along with Tonkel and sophomore Damion Ming (195).
“I am optimistic that we can build on last year,” said Katz. “But it will totally depend on how our quickly our new starters come along. They are all athletic and they’re catching on relatively quickly.”