UPPER MARLBORO – Sherwood High School wrestler Chris Sanchez ended last season one victory shy of going undefeated for the Class 4A/3A title at 138 pounds.
But when he returned to The Show Place Arena, site of his previous season’s demise, the Warriors’ senior would not be denied. Sanchez left no doubt over the course of the March 1-2 event, sandwiching pins in 45- and 89-seconds around a 17-2 technical fall before winning his state title bout, 16-5, over Kenwood High School junior Daylon Duncan (47-5).
The triumph put the finishing touches on a 36-0 mark for Sanchez, who went 24-1 a season earlier, and was two weeks removed from winning his second straight county title and one from earning his second consecutive regional crown.
“This was a monkey that’s been on my back for quite a while, and I’m so happy that it’s gone,” said Sanchez, who lost last year’s final, 6-4, in overtime to Churchill’s Jack Connolly, whom he had beaten twice in earlier bouts.
“I’m a little tired, but I’m extremely happy,” Sanchez added. “Now, I can go back and start training for my real goal, which is the Olympics. I have a dream, and that’s all I am is a man with a dream.”
Sanchez was joined by Wootton sophomore Eric Liau (41-0), who won his four bouts by a combined, 24-2, including three shutouts. Liau won his crown, 6-0, over Lansdowne High School sophomore Riley Bozeman, after winning his first-round bout over Blair sophomore Brian McCaw (6-0) and his semifinal match over Springbrook’s Pierre Jean (4-2).
A third-place finisher at states, Jean pinned Bozeman in 89 seconds in the previous weekend’s Class 4A/3A North Region finals.
“I feel like Jean could have been a finalist because he actually (pinned) that guy last weekend,” said Liau. “Last year, I didn’t go to regionals or go to states, so this is a really big jump. I’m really happy and proud to have gone undefeated.”
Several county wrestlers finished second in the state competition including Quince Orchard senior Jose Echeona (138) and junior Marquez Cooper (182), Northwest junior Siavash Sarvestani (126), Bethesda-Chevy Chase Senior Eli Guttentag (132), Paint Branch senior Austin Smith (195) and Springbrook senior Aimrick Nya (285).
Echeona lost a controversial bout, 6-5, to Broadneck’s Michael Garlington. After having turned a 4-0 deficit into a 5-4 lead following his second-period reversal and three near-fall points, Echeona appeared to have the Bruins’ senior decked and flat on his back at mat’s edge. However, Garlington was saved by the buzzer.
“I had his arm up; I had the half-nelson with my leg in under his arm, and I was looking right at the pin. People can say they didn’t see it, but I clearly saw both shoulder blades on the mat for a long time,” said Echeona, a fourth-place state finisher as a junior.
“‘You got robbed,’ that’s what a lot of people were telling me as soon as I left the mat. It was my dream to win a state championship, and I think everyone saw that I took it to him. I did everything in my power and gave it my all to win, and in the end, it wasn’t enough. But I think I’m a state champion in life, so I’m moving on,” he continued.
A third-year wrestler, Nya (40-4) lost his title bout, 3-1, in overtime to repeat state title winner Karon Lewis (47-1). Lewis had edged Nya, 4-2, in a match last month.
“I went out there and did the best that I could do, and for a couple of days, I’ll be sad about it,” said Nya. “I came out and didn’t lose that badly against the two-time state champion, so I can’t complain. I can move on with my life and be happy with my accomplishments.”
Cooper lost his title match, 4-1, on a late takedown by Linganore senior Mike Bromley. A state runner-up last year, Bromley (45-2) had beaten Cooper by identical scores of 1-0 in earlier bouts, including the previous weekend’s Class 4A/3A West Region final.
Placing fourth were Walter Johnson senior Jacob Bernstein (138), B-CC junior Jeo Martinez (152), Gaithersburg junior Jaedyn Harris (170) and Clarksburg senior Jevon Coche (220). Magruder senior Wafeeq Iqbal (120), B-CC sophomore Drew Guttentag (145) and Springbrook senior Sayfore Sieh (132) finished fifth.
Lastly, Wheaton junior Yoseph Yilma (126), Springbrook senior Sahid Antar (160), Northwest junior Yoann Olympio (170), Sherwood junior Adam Pfeiffer (182) and Paint Branch senior Wafeu Fuondjing (220) were the county wrestlers that finished sixth.