GAITHERSBURG — Wootton High School sophomores Eric and Jason Liau look exactly alike; they share corresponding course loads, a 3.9 grade point average, and common interests in computer science and engineering.
The 15-year-olds were separated only by their weight divisions as individual champions at the Feb. 16 county tournament at Gaithersburg High School, where Eric (106) earned a 5-3 decision over junior Silas Patton (26-4) of team title-winner Damascus, and Jason (113), a 16-9 victory over junior Christian Simpson (26-5) of Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
Yet, despite their similarities, Eric makes clear the Taiwanese brothers are “fraternal” twins rather than “identical.” The younger sibling by three minutes, Eric, is 34-0 compared to Jason’s record of 32-1.
“To most people, they’re indistinguishable. and you’re gonna have a difficult time telling them apart. They come into the wrestling room oftentimes wearing the exact same shirts and shorts, and I’m like, ‘Dude, really? You guys are going to come in here like that?’” said first-year Patriots’ coach Shane Bramble.
“Everything with them is the same for the most part — from their classes, to their grade point averages, but there are slight differences that I see when they’re wrestling. Eric’s more calculated, using his positioning and going side to side a lot to dictate the pace and trying to find his angles. Jason’s more of a thrower and uses big moves, which you saw in the county finals on Saturday,” he added.
Eric led, 2-1, entering the second after a first-period takedown and escape by Patton. Liau escaped to build his advantage to 3-1, holding onto that lead entering the third. Patton escaped yet again to make it 3-2 only, to be taken down by Liau for the second and last time for 5-2 lead with 28-seconds left.
Confident that his victory was secured, Liau allowed Patton to escape once more, with 15 seconds remaining for the winning margin of 5-3.
“I actually let him up the first time to make it 2-1 because I didn’t want to risk being caught with a reversal. Near the end of the match, he tried the single,” said Eric Liau, who reached the finals after a quarterfinal technical fall and a 6-0 semifinal decision over third-place finishing junior Pierre Jean of Springbrook.
“But I was able to counter and take him down with a Merkle. After that, I knew I had the match won at that point, so it was okay to let him up. When the buzzer sounded, it felt great to know I was county champion, which is way better than last year.”
Jason totaled nine nearfall points during a come-from-behind victory over Simpson, who led, 2-0, early in the first period before being overwhelmed by a four-point headlock, a five-point split-cradle and a five-point headlock.
Jason improved on last season’s third-place finish at counties, exacting revenge after Simpson edged him, 12-9, in their semifinal bout of a year ago. The victory of Jason, who was a regional runner-up last season, improved the siblings’ series lead to 2-1 against Simpson — an earlier 8-6 loser to Eric.
“Eric already had beaten Simpson,” said Jason Liau, who reached the finals on a 68-second fall in the quarterfinals and a semifinal 10-0 major decision over third-place finishing freshman Grayson Wendel of Springbrook.
“I did talk to Eric about his match with Simpson, discussing what Simpson did and practicing our strategies against him. I learned the Spladle from Eric, so to get that move and to be county champion is just a great feeling. Plus, I didn’t want Eric to have bragging rights over me if I had lost to Simpson.”
The siblings began wrestling as seventh-graders, transitioning from fifth-grade Judo competitors. After a year’s wrestling for Clarksburg’s junior league program, the Liaus entered the Carroll County-based Warhawks.
“We did Judo in about fifth grade before wrestling” said Eric Liau. “But then, we found out it wasn’t a high school sport. Wrestling is kind of like Judo, but it’s way tougher.”
The Laius competed at 106 and 113 a year ago, with Eric ultimately winning the 106-pound slot and compiling an overall mark of 30-11 after placing third and second at counties and regions. They are both each No. 1 seeds entering this weekend’s Class 4A-3A West Regional at Clarksburg, where the fifth-seeded Simpson could yet again meet Jason in a semifinal bout.
“Simpson is in my side of the bracket,” said Jason Liau. “So, if I win my first match, and Simpson wins his first match, we’ll meet in the semifinals.”
Jason went 2-2 at states, winning his initial bout by a 11-0 decision, and his second, by fall. His losses at states were to Jagger Clapsaddle of Stephen Decatur, and sixth-place finisher Trevor Lorin of Bel Air.
“States last year was initially overwhelming until I started wrestling. After that, I got used to, it and it was like a normal tournament,” said Jason Liau, whose only setback this year was in December by fall against two-time state champion Brent Lorin of Bel Air. “I bumped up to 120 to wrestle Brent Lorin and got pinned, but he’s dropped to 113 for states, so I might see him again. If I do, then, hopefully, it will be much different this time.”
Meanwhile, the 30-team Maryland Independent Schools State Tournament was won by Mount St. Joseph for the third straight year at McDonogh School of Baltimore, Interstate Athletic Conference champion Bullis (seventh), Good Counsel (eighth), Landon (ninth) and Georgetown Prep (12th) all competed on Feb. 16.
The Bulldogs placed eight wrestlers among the top eight in their respective weights, with junior Austin Brown (182) being third; junior Caleb Tomlin (220), fourth; freshman Tallion Elliott (106) and juniors Isaac Ruderman (138) and Liam Handel (145) both fifth; sophomore Terrell Jackton (285), sixth; sophomore Canaan Tomlin (152), seventh; and senior Bazin Sineshaw (126), eighth.
Placing for the Falcons were junior Brandon Roberts (285), third; juniors Conor Lozupone (113) and senior Drew Brenowitz (195), fourth; senior Avery Miller (170), fifth; and junior Peter Slear (1182) and senior Cole Robilotto (160), sixth.
For Landon, seniors Axel Giron (126), Jonny Gherman (160) and Jelani Machen (170) were fourth; junior Lorenzo Lopez (132), fifth; and junior Matt Amitay (138), sixth. The Little Hoyas’ sophomore Kyonte Hamilton (220) was a runner-up, with senior Kobe Borda (152) being sixth, and sophomore Tim Kirlin (170) and senior Grant Maynard (195), eighth.