Gladiators capture three individual titles; Springbrook ends Damascus’ reign in MoCo
by Lem Satterfield
Glenelg’s wrestling program is coached by the alumnus and former state champion Bichner siblings, Matt and Dan, who were title winners in 2006 and 2008.
As such, the Gladiators are driven to success and hard to keep down, which has been the case for their teams in general, and, at Friday and Saturday’s 51st annual Howard County Tournament in particular.
Senior state champion Drew Sotka (182) improved on last year’s runner-up finish and was joined on the victory podium by senior David Ridenour (113) and junior Nick Kingsbury (170) as the Gladiators (211 points) earned their fourth Howard County title in five years by dethroning runner-up Oakland Mills (192.5) after the Scorpions ended their three-year run last season.
Freshman Ethan Sotka (132) and junior Jake Durkin (195) finished second among the 11 Gladiators placing within the top four of their weight classes, with junior Ethan Mackey (160) and junior Lucas Suri being third, and fourth place efforts from the sophomore Hibbitts twins, Jaegon (120) and Taegon (126), as well as sophomore Kyle Hansberger (106) and junior Trey Fleece (138).
The effort was a rebound after having been state duals runners-up for the fourth straight year on February 15, when the Gladiators fell, 42-24, to unbeaten Stephen Decatur of Berlin, Maryland, whose Class 2A crown added to their previous year’s 3A version.
A runner-up to eventual state champion Sean Billups last season, Sotka ran his record to 38-2 on pins in 71, 63 and 93 seconds, the latter in his title bout over Mount Hebron’s John Ross.
“We lost a lot of talent to graduation, so it was really cool to come back after last weekend and get that trophy back into the hands of the Glenelg program,” said Sotka.
“We are hoping to get 11 guys into the regions and doing well individually and as a team, and, personally, I’m looking to go undefeated for the rest of the season.”
Ridenour pinned twice to reach his title bout, where he won a wild match, 12-11, over Mason Cowell of Oakland Mills.
“I had wrestled Cowell in our last dual meet of the season and I pinned him when he tried to lateral drop me and I countered him,” said Ridenour.
“I usually like to score a lot in the first few periods, but I was pretty psyched up and lost some momentum, but I battled through it, mentally, and I was able to stay with it to win.”
Kingsbury used an 87-second fall and a 3-0 semifinal victory over third-place finisher Zach Bedell of Marriotts Ridge to reach his final, but required an overtime takedown for a 4-2 decision over Hammond’s Noland Deshields.
“I lost the first match to Deshields, 6-3, but I improved my shot defense, which had been my weakest point,” said Kingsbury, a seventh place finisher last season. “I just kept grinding and I believed I tired him out, which helped me to get in on that winning shot in the end.”
The Scorpions’ lone champion was sophomore Alex Tamai (106), who overcame an early, 4-2, deficit for a 9-4 decision over Hammond’s Jabari Pinkney after reaching the finals on a 77-second pin and a 20-5 technical fall over third-place finisher Arya Habibi of Marriotts Ridge.
“My Dad, Kurt, was a two-time, National Prep champ for DeMatha, and my uncle, Carl, was a National Prep champ and National Prep runner-up,” said Tamai, a fourth place finisher last season who improved to 30-2.
“They’re identical twins, and my Dad is five minutes older. I knew that I could do better than fourth, so I just pushed and motivated myself since last year to make sure that I performed better.”
Hammond crowned two champions in juniors Keiron Wilson (132) and Linus Sekedjah (195), who were fifth and sixth at last year’s tournament.
Wilson used a buzzer-beating takedown for a 5-3 triumph over Ethan Sotka, having reached the finals on victories of 9-7, and, 8-5, over Mount Hebron’s Jack McGuire and Centennial’s Nick Shapiro, respectively.
“I hadn’t wrestled any of the guys that I had to beat, so they were all new to me,” said Wilson, who improved to 35-7 and was named the Glenn L. Devane award winner as the tournaments Outstanding Wrestler.
“We were tied, 3-3, and I looked at the time, knowing I needed the takedown. He exposed his ankle, so I dove for it and got the takedown. I was seeded sixth in the tournament, so I don’t think that anybody thought I was going to do what I did, but in my mind, I knew that I could.”
Sekedjah won three decisions, the last, via overtime takedown for a 3-1 victory and the crown to defeat Durkin, a junior varsity county champion a year ago.
“I wrestled Durkin in a dual meet in the final 30 seconds by the same score, so I knew it was going to be a hard one,” said Sekedjah, whose record is 32-8. “I trusted my conditioning and I knew that I had to keep my head up. Last year, I was sixth at counties but I injured my shoulder so I couldn’t continue into the regions, so this feels really good.”
River Hill junior Michael Crisitello (138) sandwiched a pair of falls around a semifinal, 15-5 major decision over third-place finisher Mahmoud Abdel-Halim of Mount Hebron, finishing off Oakland Mills’ Isaiah Williams at the four-minute mark of their championship bout.
“My dump worked pretty well, so the second time, up, 10-1, I was able to get him off balance and to pin him right at the end of the second period,” said Cristitello, who improved to 24-5 after being a county runner-up last year to state champion Jared Thomas of Glenelg.
“I ended up losing to Jared Thomas in the semifinals of the regions, and then losing a close one and getting fourth in the regions. This is a good start going into the regions and the rest of the season.”
Marriotts Ridge received back-to-back titles from unbeaten seniors Ethan Bohan (152) and Will Vaxmonsky (160), who improved to 33-0 and 39-0, respectively.
Bohan reached the finals on a second-period fall and an 8-0 semifinal victory over third-place finisher Bryce Kampert of Mount Hebron. A fourth-place state finisher last year, Bohan led 12-0 before finishing Oakland Mills’ Michael Claxton at 3:42 of their title bout.
“I’ve wrestled Kampert four times and I’ve beaten him all four times. Since he was sixth at states and a regional champion, I knew he was the second best at the tournament,” said Bohan, a former county runner-up and two-time third place finisher in the event.
“But Kampert ended up getting caught and pinned by Claxton in the semifinals, so this definitely boosts my confidence knowing that I went out there and basically didn’t let him have a chance at all. I’m really looking forward to taking this momentum into the regions and the states, where I placed fourth last year.”
A two-time runner-up, Vaxmonsky won his semifinal, 15-5, over Mackey before handling Oakland Mills’ Steve Harrell, 11-1, in the finals. Vaxmonsky has twice placed fourth at states and has 33 pins this season.
“I did a lot of offseason work to prepare me for this season, so I’m really excited for the next two weeks of regionals and states,” said Vaxmonsky. “Ethan and I have really been working hard, and winning counties was the first step in what we’re trying to accomplish, which is winning the last three tournaments of the year.”
Atholton also crowned a pair of champions in seniors David Panda (126) and Michael Altamirano (145), each accomplishing impressive feats.
Panda won a wild bout, 13-9, in overtime over River Hill’s Jonah Richardson, securing the victory on a takedown to a cradle pinning maneuver and making him the 27th Howard County wrestler to win three titles.
A regional champion whose previous crowns were earned at 113 pounds, Panda improved to 36-0, having reached the finals on a second-period pin and a 17-2 technical fall. Panda is 121-22 for his career with 60 pins overall and 15 falls on the year. He has placed fourth at states at the end of each of the past two seasons.
“This time, I really underestimated Richardson a lot and that messed up my game plan,” said Panda, who pinned Richardson earlier this season.
“In overtime, I saw he had my legs still, but I was able to lock up the cradle, roll through and put him on his back. When it was over, I heard all of my teammates chanting my name.”
Altamirano followed with an upset, 10-2 major decision that dethroned Howard’s third-place state finisher Shayan Kassiri. Altimirano was a fifth place finisher at counties a year ago behind Kassiri, who defeated Vaxmonsky for last year’s crown.
“Freshman year he beat me twice, and junior year he beat me twice. First time I beat him this year was 12-7,” said Altamirano, who improved to 24-1, having been a regional runner-up last year.
“I felt as if I felt that if I maintained that same mentality that I’d receive the same result. Right now, I don’t feel as if anything can stop me from winning a regional and then a state title. I’m feeling pretty confident about that.”
Centennial junior Christopher Lee (120) improved on last year’s third place finish, this time, vanquishing Griffin Ordowski of Mount Hebron, 7-3.
“Finishing third kind of just fueled the fire to wrestle at my best,” said Lee, who improved to 31-5. “I had wrestled Griffin twice before, being up, 14-0, the first time before pinned myself, then, I pinned him later on in the same tournament. This was a confidence boost.”
Howard senior Buddy Penguin (220) rose to 32-2 on the year with his 6-3 championship victory over Oakland Mills’ Miles Crook, having reached the finals on pins in 37 seconds and 5:18. A 220-pound junior varsity champion last season, Crook lost, 1-0, earlier to Penguin, a fifth place finisher last year.
Reservoir senior Dylan Altman (285) nailed down falls in 46 and 31 seconds before decking Jack Baxter of Marriotts Ridge in 4:57 of their title bout. Altman improved on last year’s runner-up finish, when he fell, 5-1, to Aaron Smith of Oakland Mills.
“My record is 29-1 and I have 17 pins and last year I got fourth in the regionals. I lost to [Anne Arundel County champion Nate Kloss from Arundel High. It was 1-1 going into overtime and I took a shot and found myself behind him,” said Altman.
“I pulled him on top of me and that’s how he scored and won was on my mistakes. But this feels
great finally winning a county title. That’s been my goal. Now that I’ve done it, it’s on to next week to get a regional title.”
1. Glenelg 221
2. Oakland Mills 192.5
3. Hammond 154.5
4. River Hill 154
5. Mt. Hebron 147
6. Marriotts Ridge 137
7. Atholton 103
8. Centennial 100
9. Howard 82
10. Reservoir 71
11. Long Reach 32.5
12. Wilde Lake 27
106: Alex Tamai (Oakland Mills) dec. Jabari Pinkney (Hammond), 9-4
113: David Ridenour (Glenelg) dec. Mason Cowell (Oakland Mills), 12-11
120: Christopher Lee (Centennial) dec. Griffin Ordowski (Mt. Hebron), 7-3
126: David Panda (Atholton) dec. Jonah Richardson (River Hill), 13-9 OT
132: Keiron Wilson (Hammond) dec. Ethan Sotka (Glenelg), 5-3
138: Michael Crisitello (River Hill) pinned Isaiah Williams (Oakland Mills), 4:00
145: Michael Altamirano (Atholton) major dec. Shayan Kassiri (Howard), 10-2
152: Ethan Bohan (Marriotts Ridge) pinned Michael Claxton (Oakland Mills), 3:42
160: Will Vaxmonsky (Marriotts Ridge) major dec. Steven Harrell (Oakland Mills), 11-1
170: Nick Kingsbury (Glenelg) dec. Nolan Deshields (Hammond), 4-2 OT
182: Drew Sotka (Glenelg) pinned John Ross (Mt. Hebron), 1:34
195: Linus Sekedjah (Hammond) dec. Jake Durkin (Glenelg), 3-1 OT
220: Buddy Penguin (Howard) dec. Miles Crook (Oakland Mills), 6-3
285: Dylan Altman (Reservoir) pinned Jack Baxter (Marriotts Ridge), 4:57
Springbrook ends Damascus’ eight-year run of Montgomery County titles
Sophomore Grayson Wendel (132) came from behind to dethrone senior state runner-up and regional champion Siavash Sarvestani of Northwest, and was joined on the victory podium by undefeated senior fifth-place state finisher Sayfore Sieh (145) as Sprinbrook dethroned league power Damascus for the Montgomery County title at Gaithersburg High on Friday and Saturday.
The Blue Devils (196 points) of eighth-year coach Rob Whittles earned their program’s first title since 1970, ending a run of eight consecutive championships for the runner-up Swarmin’ Hornets (181), who were last beaten by Whitman in 2011.
Finishing second were junior Matt Kilby (120) and senior Pierre Jean (132), with seniors Armon Nettey (138) and Anthony Gomez (182) being third, and senior Matt Bauer (220), fourth.
The effort came a week after the Blue Devils captured their second straight class 4A state duals title, with this year’s 40-21 over Annapolis of Anne Arundel County on February 15 following last season’s 36-18 triumph over South River.
Wendel overcame a 2-0 first-period deficit, his third-period tilt securing three nearfall points and the victory over Sarvestani (34-4).
“I came into the match knowing that Sarvestani is one of the best wrestlers in the state and that it was going to be a tough matchup,” said Wendel, who improved to 35-1 after having placed third at counties and regions as a 113-pound freshman.
“One of my biggest problems and the reason I lost my one match is that I had been impatient on top, and that I needed to slow down and secure my moves. Fortunately I was able to slip in the bar and get it in tight to take the lead.”
A third-place finisher and regional runner-up last season, Sieh improved to 38-0 on three pins and a 9-3 title bout decision over fourth-place state finisher Jeo Martinez of Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
The Swarmin’ Hornets crowned senior four-time champion Timothy Furgeson (195), senior Aiden Beall (182) and junior Michael Emerick (138), with Beall and Emerick being third- and second-place finishers who improved on county runner-up efforts of a year ago.
Furgeson rose to 43-0 on the year, using a pin and a technical fall to reach the finals for a 13-4 major decision over sixth place state finisher Adam Pfeifer of Sherwood.
Beall (41-3) came from behind for a fall in 4:54 of Yoann Olympio (26-3) of Northwest, a sixth place state finisher.
Emerick pinned his first opponent in 42 seconds before out-scoring the next three by a combined, 28-1, including a 9-1 title bout major decision over Kevin Fultz of Poolesville.
Third-place Bethesda-Chevy Chase crowned senior Christian Simpson (106) as well as the Guttentag siblings, sophomore Issac (113) and junior Drew (152).
A three-time county finalist, Simpson used a technical fall, a pin and a 17-6 major decision over Churchill’s Ethan Nasvarderani to improve to 27-3.
Drew Guttentag improved to 31-2 on two each in pins and decisions, decking Churchill’s Jaden Selby at 5:11 of their title bout, but it was Isaac (39-2) whose performance was more impressive.
After reaching the finals on a pair of first-period pins and a 10-0 semifinal rout, Issac dethroned junior state champion Eric Liau (33-2) of Wootton, his 4-2 decision coming against a wrestler who had gone 41-0 as a sophomore.
“I assumed that it was going to be a dog fight and that he was good on top, so I was pleased with the early reversal,” said Guttentag, of what could be the first of a few matches at regions and states. “There are some other good kids in our region, so we’ll have to see how that pans out.”
Fourth-place Poolesville crowned senior repeat champ Colin Savage (44-1), who was trailing and appeared to be on the ropes when Richard Montgomery junior Nicholas McCarthy (29-4) was ruled to have used an illegal slam at the 5:19 mark.
Montgomery Blair senior Mervin Mancia (220) trailed, 1-0, when he planted Damascus junior Sam O’Brian in 4:33, improving his mark on the year to 35-3, and Magruder senior Isaac Righter (285) pinned three opponents in 16, 29 and 18 seconds, being Northwood junior Mathias Adjingbanuk.
Clarksburg junior Alex Gonzalez (120) improved to 35-2 on three pins, the latter on a cradle for a come-from-behind victory in 2:20 of Kilby in the finals.
Quince Orchard senior Rico Cornejo (126) earned a dramatic victory over Jean, his takedown and three nearfall points in the final 13 seconds securing a 7-5 victory and avenging an earlier 12-0 loss.
Gaithersburg senior Jaedyn Harris (170) dethroned previously unbeaten Xavier Kresslein (43-1) of Poolesville, trailing, 1-0, with 10 seconds remaining when his escape and subsequent five-point Peterson roll countered a takedown attempt for a 6-1 victory.
1. Springbook 196
2. Damascus 181
3. Bethesda-Chevy Chase 139.5
4. Poolesville 119
5. Blair and Magruder 111
7. Northwest 90.5
8. Churchill 83.5
9. Clarksburg 82
10. Gaithersburg 71.5
11. Quince Orchard 66
12. Whitman 58.5
13. Rockville 57.5
14. Sherwood 51
15. Watkins Mill 47.5
16.Walter Johnson 42
17. Wootton 41.5
18.Richard Montgomery 37
22. Blake 16
23. Wheaton 9
24. Paint Branch 4
25. Seneca Velley 0
106: Christian Simpson (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) major dec. Ethan Navasderani (Churchill), 17-6
113: Isaac Guttentag (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) dec. Erick Liau (Wootton), 4-2
120: Alex Gonzalez (Clarksburg) pinned Matt Kilby (Sprinbrook), 2:22
126: Rico Cornejo (Quince Orchard) dec. Pierre Jean (Sprinbrook), 7-5
132: Grayson Wendel (Springbrook dec. Siavash Sarvestani (Northwest), 5-2
138: Michael Emerick (Damascus) major dec. Kevin Fultz (Poolesville), 4:00
145: Sayfore Sieh (Springbrook) dec. Jeo Martinez (Bethesda-Chevy Chase), 9-3
152: Drew Guttentag (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) pinned Jaden Selby (Churchill), 5:11
160: Colin Savage (Poolesvile) inj def. Nicholas McCarthy (Richard Montgomery), 5:19
170: Jaedyn Harris (Gaithersburg) dec. Xavier Kresslein (Poolesville, 6-1
182: Aiden Beall (Damascus) pinned Yoann Olympio (Northwest), 4:54
195: Timothy Furgeson (Damascus) major dec. Adam Pfeiffer (Sherwood), 13-4
220: Mervin Mancia (Blair) pinned Sam O’Brian (Damascus), 4:33
285: Isaac Righter (Magruder) pinned Mathias Adjingbanuk (Northwood), 0:18