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BURTONSVILLE – An overtime 4-3 decision by Brandon Ntankeu (182) was supported by pins from Brian McCaw (106), Muhammad Baig (113), Hyunka Kim (138), Shalom Ayivi (160) and Elias Chen (220) as visiting Montgomery Blair High handled Paint Branch High, 49-20, in a conference-securing county 4A West Division victory on Feb. 2.
While Ntankeu gutted it out against Kyle Isolato of the Panthers’ (7-6), teammate Biruk Tona (132) handled his rival by major decision, and Ernest Son (170), by decision, as the Blazers (18-4) secured a berth in the Feb. 6 Class 4A North Regional Duals for the second straight year under coach Tim Grover.
The Blazers also defeated Albert Einstein High, 60-12, to sweep the tri-meet, with Ntankeu, Kim, Son, Chen and Tona pinning their opponents, and Baig winning a decision.
In victory, the No. 4 seed Blazers will visist No. 1 seed Catonsville (13-0) of Baltimore County for the regional duals, with the other semifinal matching No. 2 seed Springbrook (21-1) and No. 3 seed Sherwood (11-3).
“We’ve been division champs for each of my four years at Blair, and we’re undefeated in the division at 7-0 this year,” said Grover. “We’ve been a 4A North Region Duals qualifier for the second year in a row, and for the second time in school history. Only four of our 40 kids on the team wrestled before high school.”
Among those is Ntankeu, a senior first-year wrestler whose record is 27-6.
“Last year and during my sophomore season, there were a lot of guys on the team who tried to talk me into wrestling. This year, though, I finally decided to give it a try,” said Ntankeu, a linebacker on the Blazers’ 6-4 football team.
“I attribute a lot of my success to the help I get from our coach and my teammates. Any time I’m in practice and feeling a little bit lost, coach will always pull me aside and help me out after practice. He teaches me how to perfect my craft,” he said.
A sophomore, McCaw is 30-4 nearly a year after winning 35 matches and placing fifth at counties and fourth at regions.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year, but our coach has really prepared us well and moved us forward,” said McCaw, who is in a difficult weight class that includes Eric Liau of Wootton High, Isaac Guttentag of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Silas Patton of Damascus, and Pierre Jean of Springbrook.
“I’m definitely in a tough field of really good wrestlers, some of whom have been wrestling for a long time. They know what they’re doing, but I’ve been putting in the work, and I’m hoping that it pays off when it comes to counties, regions and states,” added McCaw.
Seniors Baig and Tona are 20-12 and 23-11, and freshman Kim, nicknamed “Junior,” is 25-10. Senior Son is 13-6, and juniors Chen and Mervin Mancia (285), 18-4, and, 24-12.
“We work hard in practice every day, focusing on our technique and being in the best condition we can be in,” said Son, whose Blazers also bounced back from a 58-18 loss at Springbrook on Jan. 31.
“We knew that Springbrook was among the best teams in the state, but we pride ourselves on going hard. Sometimes the emphasis isn’t always on winning, but the effort that you put into it. And if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down swinging, which is a big reason we’re so successful,” he added.
In a tri-meet at Sherwood on Feb. 2, Springbrook senior Aimrick Nya (285) pinned regional champion Alec Velikanov of Churchill ; senior teammate Sahid Antar (160) had a pin and a major decision; and junior Pierre Jean (106) had a pin and a technical fall as the Blue Devils (21-1) handled the Bulldogs (49-22) and Warriors (37-30).
Sophomore Matt Kilby (120) earned a major decision and a decision for the Blue Devils, who received a pin from junior Richard Nguyen (160) against Churchill (20-3), and a decision from Jean Mehul (145) against Sherwood (11-3).
“Throughout the year, our goal has been to improve every day, match-by-match,” said Mehul. “We’ve just gotten better and better, and, at this point, we’re definitely at a level that is higher than ever before.”
The host Warriors received a pair of pins from senior Antonio Hicks (145), including one against the Bulldogs’ Carlos Villamar, winner of earlier tournaments at Rockville and Hammond.
Also pinning twice was the Warriors’ senior regional champion Yusuf Higazi (170); with a pin and decision each from juniors Brandon Holda (113) and Armon Nettey (126); and a major decision by Paul Christenson, the latter, 5-2, over the Blue Devils’ tough, Sayfore Sieh.
“I really wanted to beat him if I got him into the third period,” said Christenson, who has also blanked Sieh’s teammate, Daessaeve Jean, 5-0. “It feels good to beat two quality guys from there team, and it feels like everything is coming together for me, finally.”
Double-winners for the Bulldogs were Joe Raab (195) with two pins, Parker DeSalvio (152) – with a pin and an injury default victory, and Ryan Kaplow (220), with a major decision and a decision.
Bulldogs’ junior Damil Sarr (182) rose from 170 pounds to for an 11-8 upset victory over the Warriors’ Adam Pfeiffer, whom he headlocked to his back for an early lead.
“I was able to get him down with that head lock, and from there, it just took heart,” said Sarr, who bumped up from 170 to face Pfeiffer. “If you go out there thinking you’re going to lose, then you’re going to lose, but if you go out there with a calm mentality, you will do good.”
The No. 2 seed Bulldogs faced No. 3 seed Whitman High (10-4) in the Feb. 2 Class 4A West Region at top-seed Bethesda-Chevy Chase High (11-3), which battled No. 4 seed Clarksburg (9-4).
In another tri-meet on Feb.2, defending county and state duals champion Damascus (22-0) earned its 173rd and 174th consecutive dual-meet victories over visiting Magruder (58-12) and Poolesville (46-31) – the latter defeating Magruder, 62-18.
Double-winners for the Swarmin’ Hornets were Brodie Douglas (138) with a pin and a major decision; Andrew Creedon (160) and Elijah Baisden (220) each with a pin and a technical fall. Joe McKneely (113), Michael Emerick (126) and Aiden Beall (195) all had one pin and a forfeit, and state runner-up Timothy Furgeson (182), a pair of forfeits.
The top seed Swarmin’ Hornets began their quest for a seventh state dual crown by playing host to the February 6 Class 2A West Regionals, facing fourth-seed Middletown High (10-3) in the semifinals with the other matchup being No. 2 seed Williamsport (13-1) against Liberty (10-3).
For the Falcons (9-3), Sam Hull (145) earned a pin and a major decision; Kevin Fultz (132), a pin and a decision; Alex Carbonell (120), a pair of decisions; and Michael Sofelkanik (106), Colin Savage (152) and Xavier Kresslein (170) all had victories by pin and forfeit.
Caleb Taylor (285) had a pair of falls for the No. 4 Falcons (7-4), who visited No. 1 seed Linganore High (13-0) in the February 6 Class 3A West Regional Duals, with the other semifinal featuring No. 2 seed Tuscarora (12-1) and No. 3 Manchester Valley (9-5).