Georgetown Prep’s Thomas Gates overcame disadvantages in height and weight against higher-ranked wrestlers on the way to winning his 285-pound division of the December 29-30 Mount Mat Madness Invitational Tournament at Mount St. Joseph High in Baltimore Maryland.
Gates was joined on the victory podium by Interstate Athletic Conference and private schools state champion teammate Ethan Krause (145) in a tournament won by New Jersey wrestling power Blair Academy of Blairstown, New Jersey.
After earning a pair of pins over opponents who weighed close to the 285-pound limit, the 213-pound Gates won his semifinal, 3-2, over Vinnie Shaffer of Baltimore’s Archbishop Curley High and his title bout, 4-3, over Sean Mullican of Frederick County’s Middletown High.
Rated No. 2 in the state, Mullican was the Class 2A-1A state champion last year, at 220 pounds. Ranked No. 3, the 275-pound Shaffer is a defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association champion in the 285-pound weight class. He placed fourth at that weight in the private schools state tournament a year ago.
Standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall, Gates won the IAC’s at 285 pounds before placing fourth at private school states at 220 and estimates that he and Shaffer “are about the same height,” while Mullican “is probably about 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 and weighs just over 220 pounds.”
“Vinnie Shaffer is actually the reason I wanted to wrestle at heavyweight. He’s a guy I have to see at states this year and one of the returning top four guys. I wanted to see how I would wrestle against him. I look forward to wrestling guys who are heavier than me,” said Gates, who will play rugby at West Point.
“Usually, I’m quicker if I stay outside and don’t get caught underneath. My match with Vinnie started off with us pushing off against each other, but I saw an opening for a sweep single on the outside, caught his foot and drove him over for two points. After that, it was just smart wrestling, keeping him off of my legs and keeping myself from being snapped down.”
Having accomplished his primary goal of vanquishing Shaffer, Gates readjusted his focus toward avenging a loss to Mullican that came a year ago Mount Mat Madness.
“Facing Sean was a nice surprise because I had lost to him, 5-3, in a match last year,” said Gates, who failed to place after being pinned in a later bout and eliminated.
“Sean was a returning champion to this tournament after winning at 220 last year. When I saw Mullican’s name, I was motivated to wrestle him again and to prove I was better.”
Gates has continued to overcome obstacles since he twisted his left ankle during his first match of the December 9-10 Ray Oliver Tournament at McDonogh High in Owings Mills Maryland, where he placed fourth at 220 pounds.
“It started bothering me in the finals, which I think Mullican saw and started shooting more at that ankle,” said Gates. “But once the adrenalin hits, I don’t feel it during a match. I do feel the throbbing when the match is over.”
A week after the McDonogh event, Gates split time at 220 and 285 pounds, going 9-0 and pinning four opponents during the Armed Forces Duals at North Hagerstown High School. Gates said he traveled with the team to North Hagerstown in order to provide support and wrestle if necessary.
“Thomas wrestled to the best of his abilities at Mount Mat Madness and had the best weekend I’ve seen him have as a high school wrestler. He wasn’t slow on his feet or trying to out-muscle guys,” said Krause.
“He really focused on moving his feet, using his technique and being more of an athlete. This was a huge win for him, so I think he stays at 285, has a lot of motivation and I expect nothing less than him winning states.”
Krause won his title bout, 10-5, over Chase Archangelo of Delaware’s Smyrna High, whom he had beaten, 8-3, to win the seasonopening Ray Oliver Tournament.
“I basically had the same game plan I had during my first meeting with him, and that was to avoid wrestling on the mat with him with his length and to really attack and push the pace and stay on our feet,” said Krause, a Duke Universitybound senior who improved to 24-1 on the year.
“I was kind of avoiding the front headlock and really short offense, so I got to my leg attacks easier because he was making it a little harder to get to the headlock. It was a good win. I felt food, and I feel like I put together a pretty good tournament.”
Krause scored a technical fall and three pins to reach the title bout against Archangelo, with one of his falls being against Urbana’s Shane Acton, who was coming off a 10-7 decision over Middletown’s Class 2A-1A state runner-up Josh Paige.
Krause had previously won six of seven bouts to finish third at the December 17-18 Beast Of The East Tournament at the University of Delaware, where his 3-2 semifinal loss was against eventual runner-up Josh Wyland of Benedictine College.
Krause had hoped for a rematch against Wyland, who attended and watched his teammates compete in the Mount Mat Madness but did not compete due to an apparent injury. Krause had beaten Wyland in the past.
“This whole week, I was planning on wrestling Wyland, focusing on what I did wrong in our semifinal at Beast, but there could not have been available for any number of reasons,” said Krause of Wyland, who lost his Beast of The East title bout, 5-4, to Phil Conigliaro of Belmont Hill.
“He really doesn’t have much of an incentive to wrestle me before National Preps, where he’s probably going to get the higher seed. That may have played a role in him not wrestling. But going into it, it’s not something that fazed me or changed my mindset. I’m just going to wrestle whoever gets put in front of me.”
A fifth-place finisher at last year’s National Preps who finished seventh at 138 pounds in last April’s National High School Coaches’ Association Tournament, Krause is the state’s No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class for the second consecutive year, having already won Ray Oliver before pinning each of nine opponents during the following weekend’s Armed Forces Duals at North Hagerstown High School.
Krause, Gates and Caleb Wilson (170), who was sixth at Mount Mat Madness, are attempting to lead the Little Hoyas to their 13th straight Interstate Athletic Conference title, an event in which he earned Outstanding Wrestler honors after pinning all three opponents.