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Landon’ Axel Giron places fourth at nationals and earns All-American honors

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Wrestling clip artLandon junior Axel Giron won six of eight bouts, pinning twice, to earn All-American honors with his fourth-place finish at 113 pounds in the March 23-25 National High School Coaches’ Association tournament at The Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“Coming into the tournament, I was just trying to see if I could do my best, and wasn’t sure I could make it that far,” said Giron of an event featuring freshman, sophomore, junior and senior divisions.

“So I’m actually really surprised, and overall, I think I had a pretty good tournament. It feels good to realize that I’ll be coming back to school knowing that I’m a high school All-American and it makes up for the tournaments that I didn’t do well in at Landon.”

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Churchill wrestler Connolly gains redemption with dramatic 6-4 overtime state title victory

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Sherwood’s Chris Sanchez had the best of Churchill’s Jack Connolly in this takedown but Connolly went on to win the 138lb match in the Class 4A-3A State Wrestling Championship held at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro. PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITHSherwood’s Chris Sanchez had the best of Churchill’s Jack Connolly in this takedown but Connolly went on to win the 138lb match in the Class 4A-3A State Wrestling Championship held at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro. PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITH  UPPER MARLBORO — Churchill’s Jack Connolly believed himself destined to win the Class 4A-3A state championship on Monday, and the 138-pound senior did so in dramatic fashion, avenging a pair of setbacks in his final two of four bouts at the Show Place Arena.

Coming off runner-up and third-place finishes over consecutive weekends at the county and regional tournaments, Connolly won his first-round bout by 11-3 major decision over Perry Hall senior Chase Andrews, scored consecutive quarterfinal and semifinal pins in 4:52 and 57 seconds over seniors Jacob Blyukher of Centennial and Nick Gonzalez (32-5) of Clarksburg, and avenged a pair of one-point losses with his come-from-behind, 6-4 overtime championship victory over previously unbeaten junior Chris Sanchez (24-1) of Sherwood.

Andrews was a Baltimore County runner-up who lost the previous Saturday’s Class 4A-3A North Regional championship bout 9-0 to Sanchez, and Blyukher’s teammate is junior Jason Kraisser (39-0), who won his third straight state title on Monday.

Connolly is 1-1 this year against Gonzalez, having lost his regional semifinal 6-2 after being tied at 2-2 late in the third period, and 1-2 against Sanchez, falling 5-4 in a dual meet on a reversal with six seconds left, and 3-2 on a takedown with seven seconds remaining in their county title match.

“I just grew sick of losing, so I gave it every bit of my effort, and it paid off,” said Connolly, who was second at counties and regions and fourth at states as a sophomore, and first at counties, third at regions and fifth at states last year. “I felt like I was being slightly overlooked this whole season. So, all season long, I wanted to prove people wrong, and I think that after states, I finally did.”

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Paint Branch boys fall to Perry Hall Gators in 4A North Regionals

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Paint Branch senior Bobby Miller floats up under the rim to put the ball in for two. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFEPaint Branch senior Bobby Miller floats up under the rim to put the ball in for two. PHOTO BY DAVID WOLFE  BURTONSVILLE — When the second-seeded Paint Branch Panthers varsity boys basketball team took the court Saturday for the 4A North Regional championship game against the visiting Perry Hall Gators from Baltimore County, the Burtonsville squad wore t-shirts that read “OC pressure.”

That meant “Outta Control pressure.”

It was a mantra the Panthers took to heart in the first half, a motto that enabled them to go into halftime with a five-point lead. However, the defending state champion Gators orchestrated an 8-0 scoring run in the third quarter to pull away from the Panthers and stamp their ticket to the Xfinity Center by a score of 88-75.

The regional title game loss to the Gators is the second one the Panthers have suffered in as many years. Perry Hall knew the key to victory was to contain Paint Branch junior guard Richard Dudley, especially after Dudley earned 25 of his 32 points in the first half.

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Damascus crowns seven champions, dominates for 16th county grappling title

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Undefeated Ryan Lawrence of Damascus earns the 8-6 win in the 145lb championship over Ryan Holland of Blair. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARKUndefeated Ryan Lawrence of Damascus earns the 8-6 win in the 145lb championship over Ryan Holland of Blair. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARK  State champion Ryan Lawrence pinned twice in the first period to reach last Saturday’s 145-pound county title bout, where the Damascus senior overcame Blair’s all-time winning wrestler Ryan Holland, 8-6, for his third straight crown to lead the Swarmin’ Hornets to their seventh consecutive and 16th overall Montgomery County tournament championship at Gaithersburg.

A two-time county and regional champion who was third at states as a sophomore, Lawrence (41-0) was among seven titlists, nine wrestlers who finished within the top three of their weight classes and 10 who were within the top six for the Swarmin’ Hornets (238.5 points), who overwhelmed runner-up Churchill (148.5 points) and the rest of the 25-team field.

Winning counties for the second time were Swarmin’ Hornets’ seniors John Allan Furgeson (152), Ben Lokos (170) and state champion Paul Purkey (195), junior Johnny McLaughlin (126), and sophomore Timothy Furgeson (160), with junior Elijah Baisden (285) capturing his first.

Senior Dyllan Ramirez (132) and sophomore Aiden Beall (220) placed third, and senior Josh Creegan (138), sixth, the latter in the event’s most difficult weight class after having finished third at counties, fourth at regions and sixth at states as a junior.

Other repeat champions were seniors Yonas Harris (106) of Northwest, C.J. Cramma (120) of Magruder, Gabe McAndrew (182) of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, and John-Luke Iglesias (220) of Whitman, with junior Alex Carbonell (113) of Poolesville, senior Bryan Huynh (132) of Blair, and junior Chris Sanchez (138) earning their first crowns.

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Landon sophomore Lopez achieves milestone as Bears’ first-ever state champ

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Wrestling clip artLorenzo Lopez won a battle of 126-pound sophomores, 4-2 over Sam Smirnoff of Archbishop Spalding to become Landon's first state champion at the Feb. 16 and 17 Maryland Independent Schools Tournament at Harford Community College in Bel Air.

Lopez reached the finals on a pin, a technical fall, a 9-1 quarterfinal decision over Interstate Athletic Conference rival and champion Isaac Ruderman of Bullis, and a 5-3 semifinal victory over fifth place finisher Alex Figuieras of St. Mary’s Ryken, improving his overall record to 41-4 on the season.

The triumph was particularly rewarding for Lopez due to the sour ending to last season, when an illness prevented him from competing at the IAC and state tournaments.

“I felt great to win because I had high hopes last year of being a finalist in those tournaments, and not being able to wrestle was disappointing,” said Lopez, 16.

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County crowns six champions at MPSSAA’s inaugural girls wrestling turney

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Wheaton Knights’ Constance Nwaigwe wins first place at the MPSSAA’s inaugural girls invitational folkstyle wrestling tournament in the 102lb. weight class. Also placing: Second place – Atholton Raiders’ Jana Tumaneng; Third place – Einstein Titans’ Zoe Alexander; Fourth place – Carver Wildcats’ Hailey Roddy; Fifth place – South River Seahawks’ Bridgett Asman. COURTESY PHOTO BY KOLAWOLE MARVILLEWheaton Knights’ Constance Nwaigwe wins first place at the MPSSAA’s inaugural girls invitational folkstyle wrestling tournament in the 102lb. weight class. Also placing: Second place – Atholton Raiders’ Jana Tumaneng; Third place – Einstein Titans’ Zoe Alexander; Fourth place – Carver Wildcats’ Hailey Roddy; Fifth place – South River Seahawks’ Bridgett Asman. COURTESY PHOTO BY KOLAWOLE MARVILLE  Constance Nwaigwe was still a toddler in March 2006 when Magruder freshman Helen Maroulis made an impact for the County wrestling for coach Max Sartoph.

Maroulis became the first girl to place at the Maryland wrestling championships, finishing sixth at 112 pounds in the 4A/3A states. As Magruder junior, Maroulis became the first female to reach the finals of both the Montgomery County and Class 4A-3A East Region tournaments and repeated her sixth-place finish at states.

Nowadays, Nwaigwe knows Maroulis as the first-ever American female to win a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016, having earned a world championship title in 2015 after winning silver and bronze medals in 2012 and 2013.

“The first time I saw Helen wrestle, I was very much impressed,” said Nwaigwe, a junior second-year wrestler at Wheaton. “My thoughts were that not only is she a female who wrestled boys at one time, but that she went and won the Olympics. I was thinking, ‘Maybe that could possibly be me one day.’”

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Churchill sweeps Springbrook, Sherwood in regular-season-ending tri-meet

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Churchill's Marc Ballman needs only 1:41 to fall Sherwood's Adam Pfeiffer in the 170lb weight class. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARKChurchill's Marc Ballman needs only 1:41 to fall Sherwood's Adam Pfeiffer in the 170lb weight class. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARK  After helping his fellow Churchill Bulldogs secure a hard-earned five-point victory over Sherwood’s squad, Andrew Welch sat in the bleachers at Springbrook High School and watched the host team build a 43-point advantage, leading to a 40-point Blue Devil victory over the Warriors.

“We only beat Sherwood by single digits, and sitting in the stands looking at the scoreboard, I saw Springbrook beating them, 49-6, at one point,” said Welch, of an eventual 58-18 victory by the host Blue Devils over the Warriors. “We were getting a little nervous, but our coaches brought us together and told us how matchups work.”

Bulldogs coach Tony Howard, a three-time state champion at Magruder, and Tim Lowe, a two-time state champion at Einstein, assured their wrestlers they were nevertheless confident of taking the Blue Devils. “Our guys saw the score and were a little concerned, but matchups are so unique. Wrestling’s one of those sports where you really can’t watch what’s happening between two other teams,” said Lowe, the Bulldogs’ head coach.

“Coach Howard and myself weren’t concerned. I told them that Sherwood matches up well with us and wrestled us tough, and that we were in for a tough match against Springbrook, but that we have the right matchups as a whole group of 14 wrestlers to get it done.”

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Churchill wrestlers earn Paint Branch crown, eye Damascus showdown

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20180120 The Pit 195lb 1Both Andrew Welch of Churchill and Ike Kalu of Western Tech are exhausted as their 195-lb weight class finals took 8:00. Welch prevailed for the win. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARK  Sean Mahan (145), Fio Tranquill (182) and Andrew Welch (195) won titles, with seniors Chris Ervin (120) and Jack Connolly (138) finishing second as Churchill placed 11 wrestlers within the top six of their weight classes to win the 21-team Paint Branch Invitational Tournament on Jan. 19 and 20.

The Bulldogs (18-0 overall, 8-0 minus tournament dual meets) outscored runner-up Old Mill of Anne Arundel County 220.5-to-203.5, continuing their tremendous year under coaches Tim Lowe and Tony Howard heading into Saturday’s tri-meet with Quince Orchard at 15-time county champion Damascus.

At Paint Branch, Elijah Jack (152) finished third, Ryan Kaplow (220) and Alec Velikanov (285) were fourth, Carlos Villamar (132) fifth, and Parker DeSalvio (160) and Mac Ballman (170) both sixth.

The Bulldogs are now 3-0 in tournaments, having gone 10-0 to win the Rocket Launch Duals at Richard Montgomery and captured the title at the Joe Verciglio Memorial Tournament at Chantilly High of Virginia under Lowe, who was a two-time state champion at Einstein while Howard was a three-timer at Magruder.

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Sherwood junior defeats Clarksburg senior for impressive victory at Battle of the Brook

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Chris Sanchez of Sherwood takes a 15-8 decision on Clarkburg's Nick Gonzalez for the 138lb weigth class tournament. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARKSherwood's Chris Sanchez takes a 15-8 decision on Clarkburg's Nick Gonzalez for the 138lb weight class tournament. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARK  Chris Sanchez executed a five-point throw to break a 4-all tie and end the first period as the 138-pound Sherwood junior overcame Clarksburg senior Nick Gonzalez for a 15-8 title-winning victory in a marquee bout of the Jan. 12-13 Battle at The Brook tournament at Springbrook.

A DeMatha transfer who was fifth in last year’s private schools' state tournament, Sanchez won a clash between two of Maryland’s top public school wrestlers in only his second tournament of the year over consecutive weekends.

“Getting that move late in the first period was big for creating separation,” said Sanchez, who improved to 6-0 with four pins and a technical fall, pacing the Warriors (180 points) to a runner-up finish behind the host Blue Devils (197.5).

“I wish I could have stuck him, but I really didn’t get the right angle on it. I was able to maintain the right mindset for the rest of the match and take advantage of my opportunities.”

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Lawrence three-peats at War On The Shore with trio of first-period pins, decision

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At the War On The Shore Tournament at Stephen Decatur High in Berlin in Worcester County on Jan. 12 and 13, Damascus’ state champion Ryan Lawrence (145) won his semifinal 3-1, over Virginia’s sixth-place state finisher Elijah Williams of Nansemond River High, then secured his third-straight crown by head-locking two-time Delaware state runner-up Kyle McDonough of Sanford High for a 64-second fall.

A two-time county and regional champion who managed a third-place finish at states as a sophomore, Lawrence (28-0) led the Swarmin’ Hornets (224.5 points) to a runner-up finish behind Baltimore area power Mount St. Joseph (269) on the strength of three falls in a combined 2 minutes, 52 seconds.

State champion Paul Purkey (195) and two-time third-place state finisher Johnny McLaughlin (126) were runners-up for the second straight season, and John Allan Furgeson (152) was third after being fourth a year ago among seven Swarmin’ Hornets finishing within the top four of their weight classes and 11 within the top eight.

The Swarmin’ Hornets’ Elijah Baisden (285) was third, Josh Creegan (138) and Ben Lokos (170), fourth, Timothy Furgeson (160), fifth, Aiden Bell (220), sixth, and Michael Emerick (106) and Dyllan Ramirez (132), seventh and eighth.

“Ryan did a fantastic job in the finals as he has each year in this tournament,” said coach John Furgeson, whose Swarmin’ Hornets (15-0) have won six straight state tournaments, five consecutive state dual meet titles, 15 county tournaments and 142 straight matches. “It was a tough tournament, that’s why we go there and how we’re going to get better. We learned a lot about our young kids and what we need to work on.”

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