ABERDEEN – Springbrook High School, the defending Class 4A state duals champions, began this year the way they ended last season: winning.
The Blue Devils won the season-opening Golden Eagle Duals Tournament at Aberdeen High School in Harford County on Dec. 7, going 8-0 in the two-day event, capped by a 44-31 victory over Mount Hebron High School of Howard County in the title match.
Five Blue Devils’ wrestlers went unbeaten, three others lost only once, and two others lost only twice, according to seventh-year coach Rob Whittles, whose squad has a 19-match winning streak.
“Unfortunately, we came into this tournament missing five expected starters…but are hoping to have everyone back by January. The positive to that is that we had a lot of junior varsity kids step up this weekend to pick up some wins and contribute to the team title. Having that depth is important as the season progresses,” said Whittles.
“We also had four or five kids bump up in weight class all weekend so we could produce our best line-up. None of those kids complained about wrestling up a weight, and they all competed hard. Getting kids to put the team first will help make us a stronger team and allow us to be the best we can be. I’m really proud of everyone’s effort this weekend.”
Going undefeated were seniors Sayfore Sieh (145), Pierre Jean (132), Edwin Peralta (170) and juniors Matthew Kilby (120) and Grayson Wendel (138).
Sieh went 8-0 with seven pins and a technical fall, Jean pinned each of his six opponents and Peralta (170) pinned in five of his six victories. Kilby pinned four times with a major decision among his eight wins, and Wendel pinned all three of his opponents.
“Mount Hebron won their pool with a close win over Marriotts Ridge. We beat them in the finals,” said Whittles. “They jumped out to an early lead, but we closed the gap late and won five of the last six matches. Grayson Wendel’s first-period pin sealed the dual win for us.”
Seniors Richard Nguyen (182) and Matthew Bauer (285) each won seven of eight bouts, pinning six times apiece. Senior Chinua Sabater (126) went 6-2 with a pin, and two major decisions, Ryan Tran (195) was 6-2 with three pins, and Kousei Taguchi (138) was 4-1 with a technical fall victory.
“A lot of other top guys put up a lot of bonus-point wins and pins,” said Whittles. “The only real upset win was Ryan Tran beating a state qualifier from Western Tech who was one match away from placing at states. Ryan did that in his varsity debut.”
Whittles returns an ethnic blend of relatively inexperienced athletes from a squad that earned its program’s first-ever Class 4A state duals crown with a dramatic 36-18 victory over South River of Anne Arundel County at North Point High in Charles County in February.
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 before high school.
A second-period pin by Nguyen (170) accounted for the 11th straight win for the Blue Devils since falling, 39-24, to 17-time county champion Damascus High School – an improvement over the previous year’s 67-0 shutout loss to the Swarmin’ Hornets
At last year’s Class 4A-3A state tournament, senior Aimrick Nya (285) was a runner-up, Jean (106) finished third, and Sieh (132) and senior Sahid Antar (160).
The Blue Devils placed nine wrestlers at counties, where Antar and Naya won crowns. Pierre Jean, Sieh, and Wendel (113) and senior Jean Mehul (145) were third; Kilby (120) and senior Dassaeve Jean (138), fourth; and Peralta (152) placed fifth.
There were nine Class 4A-3A top four place-winners and qualifiers at Class 4A-3A North Regions, where Jean, Antar and Nya earned titles, Sieh was a runner-up; Wendel and Kilby were third; and Mehul, Peralta and Bauer (220) were fourth.
The Blue Devils hosted and won their 15-team Grapple at the Brook Tournament in last January for the second straight time in the event’s 21-year history. They were also 3-0 in December tournaments comprised of the Aberdeen High Duals and the Spartan Slam at Broad Run High in Ashburn, Virginia.
“We had seven kids make their varsity debut, and we were still able to win the tournament,” said Whittles. “We’ll get back in the practice room and keep working to correct the mistakes we made this weekend and try to keep improving all year.”