It was Feb. 17, 2018, when Lorenzo Lopez won a battle of 126-pound sophomores, 4-2, over Sam Smirnoff of Archbishop Spalding to become the Landon School’s first state champion at the Maryland Independent Schools Tournament in Bel Air.
The triumph was rewarding for Lopez due to the sour ending to his freshman season when illness prevented him from competing at the state tournament. As a sophomore, he was at the forefront of that groundbreaking season by the Bears, who won both the tournament as well as winning the program’s first overall Interstate Athletic Conference tournament (IAC) championship since 1994, with a school-record mark of 16-5 overall and 6-0 in conference competition.
While everything looked to be going up, 2019 was rough to Landon and Lopez as he finished in fifth place in the state tournament after having earned his third consecutive IAC individual crown as Landon lost to Bullis in the IAC tournament.
“I wasn’t as dedicated, and my motivation to win wasn’t there,” Lopez said. “I had to look back and see what was wrong. Now I’ve made a lot of changes in my mindset. I want to be a two-time state champ and make it onto the podium at National Preps.”
Lopez continued his rebound campaign at the Jan.3-4 Battlin’ Barons’ duals at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, where he finished with an 8-0 record, including a 7-2 decision over Northwest’s Siavash Sarvestani, last year’s Class 4A-3A state runner-up.
“Last year at Barrons’ duals, I went 7-1. I lost to (Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School’s) Eli Guttentag,” said Lopez. “I got upset as a freshman and lost to Guttentag two years in a row, so I’ve ever gone 8-0 at The Barons’ Duals, and this year, I came in knowing Northwest was going to be there and that Sarvestani was one of the top guys in the state. This is my first year going undefeated, and it’s a continuation of a great season for me.”
Lopez was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler, an effort that followed his capturing the title at the Dec. 27-28 Mount Mat Madness event at Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore. At the Mount Mat Madness, he won back-to-back, come-from-behind decisions over former state champion Blake Jury of Saint Mary’s Ryken and Nathan Porter of Mount St. Joseph, respectively.
Currently, Lopez holds 17-2 record includes nine pins, two technical falls and a major decision.
“Mount Mat Madness was definitely a big win for me. I had a tough bracket with two of the top-ranked guys in the state with Nathan Porter and Blake Jury,” said Lopez. “Jury’s a former state champ, and Porter’s always near the top. Going in, I tried to treat it like any other tournament. I just wanted to compete at my best. Both were close matches, and I was able to come out on top for the win where I ended up coming out on top in the last couple of seconds.”
Lopez overcame Jury, 4-3, after falling behind before the third period. He was able to complete a sweep-single takedown on the mat to come back and win the match.
Next up was his matchup against Porter, the No. 1 seed who was not only wrestling in his home gym but who had beaten Lopez, 4-2, in an earlier tournament. He recalls not being able to get a second takedown and cutting Porter in the third period before losing 4-2. Lopez fell behind in the rematch but not too far behind that he couldn’t make up and surpass the difference.
“Porter was beating me 1-0 after the second period, but I got an escape within the first minute of the third period to tie it up,” Lopez said. “He was getting into my legs a lot, but my defense was on for that match, and I defended pretty well with whizzers and sprawls and splits, and I was confident. He almost took me down a couple of times, but I fought them off.”
A final counter with 20 seconds remaining along with a late scramble put him back on top before the match was over for the 3-1 victory.
Lopez’s belief in himself and his improved wrestling IQ may eventually land the B-average student in college, where he hopes to wrestle at either George Mason, Lock Haven or Bloomsburg universities.
“Lorenzo is on a mission. He has worked hard in the offseason to be prepared for this year,” said Bears’ Head Coach Andy Katz. “As with any season, there will be some ups and downs, but Lorenzo’s goal is to peak at the end of the season when it counts.”