Josh Aybar and Jason Litvak win titles for the Dons, John Carroll was second, C. Milton Wright third

John Carroll’s Staki Gourgoulianis (left) and C. Milton’s Wright’s James Riveira returned to Harford County with individual championships at 106 and 120, respectively, as their team’s placed second and third.

by Billy Loverocket

The snow that fell throughout the day on Saturday forced Parkville’s annual Knightmare Invitational tournament to be completed in one day on Friday night. Wrestling concluded after midnight, and when the Loyola Blakefield team’s heads finally hit their pillows, the Knightmare had ended with them as champions.

“It was a long day and night for sure,” Loyola coach Steve Truitt said. “I’ve been coaching for 15 years now and have never been in a gym til 1 a.m. Gary Burkhart and the folks at Parkville did a great job handling difficult circumstances and put together a challenging field with lots of good wrestling. I was impressed with John Carroll along with C.M. Wright, EVT, and Pikesville have some outstanding wrestlers on their rosters.

The guys have been working hard in the practice room and it paid off this weekend. We have a nice mix of senior leadership (Ryan Thomas, Taylor Randolph, Will Maigetter, and Jason Litvak) along with some talented underclassmen (Josh Aybar and Shawn Strand) who did an excellent job getting pins and bonus points for us. I’m proud that we were able to take the team title and get off to a nice start, but that won’t mean anything unless we continue to improve. Overall, I was very pleased with our performance as a whole but we also have a lot to work on. We want to be wrestling our best in February and yesterday’s performance was a step in the right direction.”

Truitt also talked about the challenge ahead.

“As usual, the MIAA is stacked this year and we need to improve in all areas if we want to compete with some of the top teams in our conference. If we stay healthy and wrestle to our strengths, we can be a solid and well-balanced team.”

Aybar’s 145lb title was the first high school tournament championship of his career. The sophomore used three pins and a major-decision to secure his crown.

“I am very proud of the win, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself,” Aybar said. “I need to stay focused. I still have some things I need to work on in the practice room. My coaches helped equip me with the skills needed to win. I look forward to improving and winning in the future.”

Litvak repeated as Knightmare champ winning the 182lb title with a 10-3 decision in the finals over Gilman School’s Kevonte Beard.

“I was very pleased with my offensive performance at Parkville,” said Litvak. “My Coaches told me to go out there and get to work, so I did and pinned my way to the championship. I was familiar with my opponent in championship match since I faced him a few days prior. He was tough to turn but I was able to keep attacking him and hit my shots. I was happy to win the tournament not just for myself, but for my coaches, especially since this is my last year with Coach Truitt.”

Bringing home sliver for the Dons were Jonathan Vendelis (138) and Will Maigetter (220). Maigetter, who is ranked No. 20 in the state, pulled off a huge upset in the semifinals when he pinned John Carroll School’s Adam Berg (No. 7) at the 2 minute, 47 second mark of the second period.

Shawn Strand (120), Ryan Thomas (132), Ben Breschi (160), and Taylor Randolph (170) placed third with Thomas picking up his 100th win. Heavyweight Bennett Traurig was fourth.

John Carroll’s runner-up finish was paced by two champions, Staki Gourgoulianis (106) and Luke Strappelli (132). Gourgoulianis, a freshman, downed Gilman’s state placer Andy Weinstein, 4-2, to win his first high school championship.

“When I won, I felt that all my hard work in the off-season (J Robinson Camp, Ground Control practices, and Junior Olympics) had paid off,” Gourgoulianis continued. “I’m ready for the next tournament so I can continue to dominate. I feel like my performance in the first two matches could be cleaned up, but overall, I think my performance was really good, especially in the finals. I wrestled smart and didn’t give up the entire match.”

Strappelli’s title was his second straight at Parkville. Settling for second for the Patriots were Matt Mitrega (126) and CJ Polesovsky (152). Placing third were Berg (220) and Druw Van Der Werff (285). Cole Jones (120) and Jerry Rosser (170) were fourth.

C. Milton Wright’s three champions were the most of any squad. Michael Mitrega made a successful return to the mat winning the 113lb crown after missing last season with an injury.

Stellar freshman James Riveira (120) won the gold in his first high school tournament. Riveira, who will eventually be at 106lbs, dominated the competition. He is ranked No. 5 at 106, but the higher weight didn’t derail him as he beat No. 11 Strand, 9-5, in the semifinals, then crushed Smithburg’s two-time state placer, Shane Hovermale (No. 6), 19-2 in the finals.

“Giving up ten pounds and a few years was a little nerve racking, but I feel like the more obstacles the better,” said Riveira. “When they seeded me sixth, I felt like I had to prove something, and in the finals, something clicked. I felt like I couldn’t lose. After that match, I felt a big relief and that I proved the ones who doubted me wrong.”

Senior Wyatt Graham, who is ranked No. 2 in the state at 220lbs, took the first steps towards his goal of bringing home a state championship, after being second last year. Graham rolled to the title picking up two falls, including one of Loyola’s Maigetter in the finals.

“Well I think last season’s disappointing finish made me motivated to work harder in the offseason and to get better,” Graham said. “I think the tournament was my work paying off. I was just there to wrestle hard and to give this season a strong start.”

The Mustangs’ Sawyer Sturla was second at heavyweight. Jake Blanchard was fourth at 132lbs.

Eastern Tech’s Ryan Wagener pinned all four opponents he faced on his way to the 132 individual title.

When it comes to strong starts, Eastern Tech’s Ryan Wagener had one of the more impressive runs through the tournament. The junior pinned all four of his opponents, three of them in the first period. In the finals, Wagener (No.6) pinned No.7 Matt Mitrega in the middle of the second period, 3:03.

“I feel really strong this year and I’m injury free for the first time,” Wagener added. “When I heard the tournament was going to have to be finished in one night I wanted to make sure I conserved my energy, so I was going for the fastest pins so I was ready for the finals.”

Smithsburg’s Josh Atkinson came into the tournament as the top seed even though he was not ranked amongst the state’s top twenty wrestlers at 152lbs. Atkinson proved he was worthy of the No.1 seed as he edged Gilman’s No. 16 Cole Brown, 5-3, in the semis. In the finals, Atkinson tallied a major-decision, 11-3, over John Carroll’s Polesovsky (No. 15).

Pikesville’s state runner-up, No. 6 Rasim Aliyev, won a battle of state-ranked grapplers in the finals, 7-1, over No. 9 Jeremy Cranston (Gilman).

Other event champions were, Joel Turner-Rodgers (Woodlawn, 138), Jamie Rice (Boys’ Latin School, 160), Sam Lu (Potomac, Virginia, 195), and Edgewood’s Daviyon Johnson (285).

Team Scores:

1 Loyola 226.5
2 John Carroll 168
3 C. Milton Wright 167.5
4 Gilman 132
5 Eastern Tech 128
6 Pikesville 101.5
7 Dulaney 84
8 Potomac School (VA) 73.5
9 Smithburg 72
10 Boys’ Latin 62
11 Edgewood 61.5
12 Calvert Hall 54
13 Curley 47
14 Woodlawn 46.5
15 Patapsco 32
16 Langley (VA) 31
17 Dundalk 19

18. Parkville

19 Friends School 17
20 Chesapeake 6