Editor’s Note: To cap off his wrestling coverage for this year, writer Lem Satterfield selected his top-performing wrestlers from Montgomery County.
Wrestler of The Year: Elijah Baisden, Sr., Damascus, 220 pounds: Baisden won his second straight county and Class 2A-1A West Region titles and improved on last year’s Class 2A-1A state runner-up finish at 285-pounds by earning the 220-pound championship this year.
Baisden went 49-1, his lone setback coming in overtime of a semifinal loss to Delaware State’s runner-up on the way to a third-place finish at The War on The Shore Tournament. At states, Baisden registered pins in his first-round and quarterfinal bouts before earning a semifinal decision.
Baisden was deadlocked at 1-1 with seven seconds remaining in his bout with repeat finalist Ike Kalu (34-2) of Western Tech, when he lateral-dropped the senior to his back for a 5-1 victory. Kalu has ranked No. 1 ahead of Baisden all season in the Class 2A-1A state rankings for Maryland. In last year’s finals, Baisden was runner-up, 11-5, to Dunbar’s Jordan Pryor, a senior who pinned Aaron Smith of Oakland Mills for his third straight crown at states.
“After last season, I made the decision to cut 220 because at the time ‘heavyweight’ wasn’t a natural weight for me. I remember waking up to a text message from Timmy saying that I was ranked 5th in the state behind guys I knew I was better than,” said Baisden. “I felt disrespected, and after that moment I decided if they were gonna give me the respect I deserve I was gonna have to take it. Every time I stepped on the mat it was personal; each match I tried to make a statement.”
The lone senior, Baisden led the Swarmin’ Hornets to their eighth consecutive and 17th overall county championship. Baisden also led the Swarmin’ Hornets (26-0) to a victory over Howard County’s Glenelg for the Class 2A state dual-meet championship.
It was their 178th consecutive win and their seventh straight state duals crown, following a back-to-back 25-0 seasons under coach John Ferguson.
“I felt this whole season I’ve had something to prove, both individually and for my team,” said Baisden. “Everyone in state doubted our team and our ability to repeat, but I told you at the begging of the season we weren’t the team that was gonna lose the streak.”
Baisden was third at counties and fifth at regions as a 182-pound freshman, third and second as a 195-pound sophomore, and first last season. Those achievements contributing to his being named the recipient of the prestigious Richard J. Monisera Award for the senior who has scored the most points for his school in the county tournament. Baisden is 157-13 for his career.
Coach of The Year: Rob Whittles, Springbrook: In his sixth season, the 37-year-old coach took an ethnic blend of relatively inexperienced athletes to their program’s first-ever Class 4A state duals crown with a dramatic 36-18 victory over South River of Anne Arundel County.
A second-period pin by junior Richard Nguyen (170) accounted for the 11th straight win for the Blue Devils since falling, 39-24, to 16-time county champion Damascus High – an improvement over last year’s 67-0 shutout loss to the Swarmin’ Hornets.
Representing Cameroon, the Dominican Republic, Gambia, Guyana, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Vietnam, among others, the Blue Devils finished at 25-1, despite boasting only two wrestlers with more than four years of wrestling experience prior to high school.
“This was really a dream season for us. We had the right group come together, and they were a really special group of kids. This team has worked so hard and were willing to do whatever we asked of them. They were very unselfish in terms of being willing to move around to different weight classes to do whatever was best for the team,” said Whittles.
“They all brought into what we preached as coaches. And this team really has a bunch of great kids off the mat. They are all super respectful, polite, and generous kids. There isn’t a better group of kids who deserve this more than them, and I have had so much fun coaching these kids. and this team will always be special to me.”
At the Class 4A-3A state tournament, senior Aimrick Nya (285) was a runner-up, junior Pierre Jean (106) was third, and junior Sayfore Sieh (132) and senior Sahid Antar (160), both fifth.
The Blue Devils placed nine wrestlers at counties, where Antar and Naya won crowns. Pierre Jean, Sieh, freshman Grayson Wendel (113) and senior Jean Mehul (145) was third; sophomore Matt Kilby (120) and senior Dassaeve Jean (138), fourth; and junior Edwin Peralta (152), fifth.
There were nine Class 4A-3A top four place-winners and qualifiers at Class 4A-3A North Regions, where Pierre Jean, Antar and Nya earned titles, Sieh was a runner-up; Wendel and Kilby were third; and Mehul, Peralta and Matt Bauer (220) were fourth.
The Blue Devils hosted and won their 15-team Grapple at the Brook Tournament on Jan. 19 for the second straight time in the event’s 21-year history. They were also 3-0 in tournaments, including the Dec. 7-8 Aberdeen High Duals in Harford County, and the Dec. 21-22 Spartan Slam at Broad Run High in Ashburn, Virginia.
“My assistant coaches were great all season and were all-in to help out with whatever was needed in practice, giving rides, helping out at tournaments,” said Whittles. “There is no way we would’ve accomplished this without Matt Halkos, Rayem Ali, and Chris Halkos stepping up big-time to make this team be successful. Hopefully, we can come back next year and have another good season.”
Eric Liau, So., Wootton, 106: Liau went 41-0 to win county, Class 4A-3A West Region and Class 4A-3A state titles. At counties, Liau earned a first-round technical fall, a 6-0 semifinal shutout of third-place state finisher Pierre Jean of Springbrook, and a 5-3 title bout victory over Silas Patton of Damascus.
Liau pinned all three regional tournament rivals and won his four state title bouts by a combined, 24-2, including three shutouts. Liau won his state championship 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, 4-2, over Jean.
Jason Liau, So., Wootton, 113: The elder of the Liau twins, Jason improved on last year’s third-place county finish by capturing the title this year, finishing second at Class 4A-3A West Regions and winning two of four bouts at states for an overall record of 36-4.
Jason reached the county 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. Jason totaled nine near-fall points during a come-from-behind county championship win over B-CC’s Christian Simpson, and pinned twice before falling, 5-2, to Thomas Monn of North Hagerstown in the regional finals.
Conor Lozupone, Jr., Good Counsel, 113: Lozupone was named Outstanding Wrestler in the December Magruder Mad Mats Tournament, and, later that month, won the Damascus Holiday Tournament, 6-1, against third-place Class 2A-1A state finisher Zaden Meyer of Williamsport.
Lozupone was second at The Melee on The Metro in February, second as well in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Tournament also in February, and fourth at the Maryland Independent Schools State Tournament later that month. Lozupone won three of five bouts at National Preps, coming within a victory of finishing within the top eight.
Alex Carbonell, Sr., Poolesville, 120: Carbonell went 47-3, capturing the county and Class 2A-1A state tournament crowns and finishing second at the Class 2A-1A West Regional.
His 172 career victories tie the county milestone established by Mikey Macklin of Damascus. Carbonell has won a pair of county titles and been a runner-up and twice finished third at states while finishing sixth as a freshman. At states, Carbonell earned victories by, 10-0, 5-3, and, 3-0 before taking his title bout, 1-0, over senior Marquis Kemp (43-3) of Loch Raven.
Carbonell dedicated his championship to former coach Kevin Dorsey, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) during the summer of 2014.
Axel Giron, Sr., Landon, 126: A former state runner-up at Parkdale of Prince George’s County, Giron has twice won Interstate Athletic Conference titles at Landon, where he completed his second season this year. Giron finished fourth at the private schools’ state tournament this year after being third as a junior.
Giron also won the Magruder Mad Mats Invitational for the second straight year, finishing with a record of 47-9 that included 33 pins. Giron has 168 career victories, including those over first-, second-, third- and sixth-place state finishers Blake Jury of St Mary’s Ryken, Siavash Sarvestani of Northwest, Brian Beishelt of Leonardtown and Yoseph Yilma of Wheaton.
Siavash Sarvestani, Jr., Northwest, 126: Sarvestani earned a 5-3 county championship victory over Class 2A-1A state runner-up Michael Emerick of Damascus, and an overtime 4-2 decision over Class 4A-3A state runner-up Tyler Cook of North Hagerstown for the Class 4A-3A West Region crown. The win over Cook avenged a loss from a year earlier.
Sarvestani won come-from-behind, 4-2 state quarterfinal and semifinal decisions over third- and fourth-place Class 4A-3A state finishers Caleb Chaves (Arundel) and David Pruett (Atholton) on the way to finishing second at Class 4A-3A states with a record of 41-3. Sarvestani was a county and regional runner-up and fifth at states as a sophomore.
Eli Guttentag, Sr., Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 132: Guttentag won his first three county title bouts by a combined 40-4, including a 16-0 first-round technical fall, a 12-1 major decision in his quarterfinal and a 6-3 semifinal victory over fifth-place state finisher Sayfore Sieh of Springbrook. Guttentag earned his county title, 6-0, over Sherwood’s Paul Christenson, whom he had blanked, 8-0, in an earlier dual meet.
Guttentag was a Class 4A-3A West Region and state runner-up following identical 10-7 losses to three-time champion Earl Blake of Linganore. Twice a third-place state finisher, Guttentag (43-5) lost semifinal bouts to state champions in each instance to Blake and three-time title winner Brent Lorin of Bel Air.
Jose Echeona, Sr., Quince Orchard, 138: A fourth-place state finisher as a junior, Echeona lost a controversial Class 4A-3A state finals 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. Echeona finished second at both counties and regions, falling 7-5 in the latter to third-place state finisher Caleb Everhart of South Hagerstown. Echeona avenged earlier losses to Sherwood’s Sam Ewing and Walter Johnson’s state runner-up Jacob Bernstein, twice pinning Ewing, and once pinning Bernstein in addition to winning by decision.
Xavier Kresslein, Jr., Poolesville, 170: Kresslein finished with an overall record of 43-3, earning his first county and Class 2A-1A West Region crowns and finishing third at Class 2A-1A states. Kresslein won his county semifinal, 3-1, over Northwest’s sixth-place state finisher Yoann Olympio.
Kresslein won his county title bout, 5-2, over Sherwood’s two-time regional champion Yusf Higazi. A 4-2 loser in last year’s county finals to Class 2A-1A state champion Timothy Furgeson of Damascus, Kresslein looks to improve on last season’s third-place regional placement.
Jelani Machen, Sr., Landon, 170: Machen went 36-4 on the year, winning his second straight title at the Magruder Mad Mats Tournament, finishing second at the Mount Mat Madness at Mount St. Joseph, and earning his second consecutive Interstate Athletic Conference crown. Machen finished fourth at private schools’ states for the second straight year, albeit forfeiting his third-place bout due to injury to a wrestler he had previously vanquished.
Machen has 101 career victories and, as a football-free safety and running back on the Bears’ past two 9-1 teams, led the squad to an IAC title as a junior and a runner-up finisher to Georgetown Prep this year. This past season, Machen rushed for 10 touchdowns and returned one of four interceptions for a touchdown. Armed with a 3.9 GPA, Machen will play football at Harvard.
Timothy Furgeson, Jr., Damascus, 182: Furgeson improved on his Class 2A-1A state runner-up finish by winning this year’s crown. In his state finals bout, Furgeson broke a scoreless tie against senior Dondre Space (40-5) of Owings Mills, executing a “tilt” at the edge of the mat for the decisive set of near-fall points and a 2-0 triumph.
Furgeson won his third straight county tournament crown after being second and first at regions as a freshman and sophomore and repeated as a regional champion a week prior to states. Furgeson registered first-period pins in his first-round and quarterfinal bouts at states before earning a semifinal decision. Furgeson went 45-0 on the year and is 127-13 for his career.
Austin Smith, Sr., Paint Branch, 195: Smith went 42-2 with 34 pins, earning his county crown, 3-2, over third-place Class 2A-1A state finisher Aiden Beall of Damascus. Smith was a runner-up in both the Class 4A-3A West and Class 4A-3A states to repeat state champion Kevin Makosy of Urbana.
The son of 26-year coach Rick Smith, Austin had a 39-5 record as a junior, comprised of being third at counties, second at regions and fourth at states. Among those Smith pinned was Ryan Jones, a Class 4A-3A West Region champion from Quince Orchard.
Colin Savage, Jr., Poolesville, 152: Savage (42-4) pinned all four of his county tournament opponents, including Class 4A-3A West Region champion Nicholas McCarthy of Richard Montgomery High in 3:21 of their semifinal, and fourth-place Class 4A-3A state finisher Jeo Martinez of Bethesda-Chevy Chase in 1:22 of their title bout.
Savage won his first-county tournament after being fourth and was both a regional runner-up and third at states last season. Savage, as a freshman, was third at counties and a regional champ and placed fifth at states. Savage suffered a season-ending leg injury during his regional semifinal bout.
Sahid Antar, Sr., Springbrook, 160: Antar won his first county and regional titles and finished fifth at Class 4A-3A states, ending with a record of 39-4. Antar’s 37-10 record last year at 160 comprised being third at counties, second at regions and fifth at states.
A crowning achievement was Antar’s overtime, 5-3 decision over Class 4A-3A state runner-up Trent Puccinelli of South River, clinching a 36-18 victory for the Class 4A dual-meet state championship at North Point High on Feb. 9.
Chris Sanchez, Sr., Sherwood, 145: Sanchez ended last season one victory shy of going undefeated for the Class 4A/3A title at 138 pounds, but he more than made up for it this season.
Sanchez sandwiched 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. Sanchez lost last year’s final, 6-4, in overtime to Churchill’s Jack Connolly, whom he had beaten twice in earlier bouts. Sanchez was named Sherwood’s Outstanding Wrestler.
Austin Smith, Sr., Paint Branch, 195: Smith went 42-2 with 34 pins, earning his county crown, 3-2, over third place Class 2A-1A state finisher Aiden Beall of Damascus. Smith was a runner-up in both the Class 4A-3A West and Class 4A-3A states to repeat state champion Kevin Makosy of Urbana.
The son of 26-year coach Rick Smith, Austin had a 39-5 record as a junior comprised of being third at counties, second at regions and fourth at states. Among those Smith pinned is Ryan Jones, a Class 4A-3A West Region champion from Quince Orchard.
Aimrick Nya, Sr., Springbrook, 285: Only a third-year wrestler, Nya went 40-4, earning his first county and Class 4A-3A North Region crowns and finishing second at the Class 4A-3A state tournament. Nya lost his title bout, 3-1, in overtime to repeat champion Karon Lewis (47-1), who had edged Nya, 4-2, a month earlier.
At regions, Nya pinned fourth-place Baltimore County finisher Brian Nguyen of Lansdowne in 62 seconds; defeated fourth-place state finisher Davlyon Johnson of Edgewood, 3-1, in their overtime semifinal; and blanked fifth-place state placer, Sawyer Sturla of C. Milton Wright, 5-0, in the finals. Nya’s performance came a week after defeating Class 4A-3A West Region champion, Austin Smith, of Clarksburg, 8-3, in the county finals.
Pierre Jean, Jr., Springbrook, 106; Silas Patton, Jr., Damascus, 106; Christian Simpson, Jr., Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 113; Wafeeq Iqbal, Sr., Magruder, 120; Michael Emerick, So., Damascus, 126; Lorenzo Lopez, Sr., Landon, 132; Paul Christenson, Sr., Sherwood, 132; Jacob Bernstein, Sr., Walter Johnson, 138; Drew Guttentag, So., Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 145; Jeo Martinez, Jr., Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 152; Nicholas McCarthy, So., Richard Montgomery, 152; Andrew Creedon, Jr., Damascus, 160; Avery Miller, Sr., Good Counsel, 170; Jaedyn Harris, Jr., Gaithersburg, 170; Yusuf Higazi, Sr., Sherwood, 170; Yoann Olympio, Jr., Northwest, 170; Austin Brown, Jr., Bullis, 182; Marquez Cooper, Jr., Quince Orchard, 182; Aiden Beall, Jr., Damascus, 195; Drew Brenowitz, Sr., Good Counsel, 195; Kyonte Hamilton, So., Georgetown Prep, 220; Brandon Roberts, Jr., Good Counsel, 285.