Thomas Wootton High School juniors Eric and Jason Liau exuded confidence entering the invitational tournament hosted by Paint Branch High School on Jan. 24-25.
Eric was focused on a 113-pound rematch against Mountain Ridge senior Jesse Fresh while Jason was angry that the former state champion would not be among his 106-pound opponents.
Both wrestlers displayed advance skills in a match that mirrored last year’s 4-2 decision in favored Eric. Despite a late comeback by Fresh, the Patriot overcame a reversal to defeat his rival, 3-2, for the second straight year in the same tournament. Meanwhile, in the final bout on Jan. 25, his younger brother conquered sophomore Frankie Rizzo of Mountain Ridge in the 106-pound weight class finals.
To make it his rematch against Fresh, the younger of the Taiwanese fraternal twins scored a first-period pin and a 15-0 technical fall, raising his season totals to 12 pins and two technical falls. As the 113-pound finals began, Eric Liau took down Fresh with a sweep-single takedown and controlled the match from the ground.
“He got hit with three [false starts] and was penalized a point, just like last year, so it was a similar match,” said Eric Liau.
When comparing both bouts against Fresh, the junior believed that being in a bigger weight class would allow him to take down his opponent easier than before, giving himself a better advantage than last year.
“In the third period, last year, he got a reversal, then he let me up and tried to take me down again, but he couldn’t,” Eric Liau said. “I’m glad that he moved up because it gave me a better match, but it also just got Jason more fired up to win.”
Meanwhile, Jason Liau used pins in 66- and 29-seconds to reach his title match against Rizzo. The fired-up Patriots wrestler started with a takedown and finished with 14 first-period nearfall points for a 16-0 technical fall victory. He improved his totals on the year to 13 pins and seven technical falls.
While the victory was satisfying, it was not the match Jason Liau was expecting. The junior stated that he cut weight to 106 to wrestle Fresh and face newer, more challenging opponents. However, his father received a text from Head Coach Shane Bramble that Fresh was going up to 113.
“At that moment, I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Jason Liau said. “That meant that I cut down in weight for basically no reason, so I was pretty bummed out. I decided that I had to win all of my matches either by pin or technical fall, so after my brother beat Fresh, that hyped me up to win in the first period.”
The siblings began wrestling as seventh graders, transitioning from being Judo competitors. After a year’s wrestling for Clarksburg’s junior league program, the Liaus entered the Carroll County-based Warhawks Wrestling Club.
As freshmen, the Liaus competed at 106 and 113 pounds, with Eric ultimately winning the 106-pound slot and compiling an overall mark of 30-11 after placing third and second at counties and regions. As sophomores, Eric was a county, Class 4A-3A West Region and Class 4A-3A state champion at 106 pounds, while Jason was first at counties, second at regions and went 2-2 at states at 113.
At the county tournament last year, Eric Liau earned a 5-3 decision over junior Silas Patton of Damascus High School, while Jason, a 16-9 victory over Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School junior Christian Simpson.
Eric Liau pinned his way to last year’s regional final, where he fell, 5-2, to North Hagerstown’s Thomas Monn. In the state competition, Jason went 2-2 at states, where Eric won his four bouts by a combined 24-2 score, including three shutouts. He went on to win the state title, 6-0, over Lansdowne High School sophomore Riley Bozeman.
For Jason Liau, it is all about focusing on the future. Following his victory on Jan. 25, he is looking forward to match his brother in results as well as staying in a comfortable weight going forward.
“Going down to 106 for the Paint Branch tournament was a big cut for me, and the only reason I did it was to wrestle Fresh,” said Jason Liau. “Since that didn’t happen, I’m probably going to be at 113 for the rest of the [regular] season, and then I’ll cut down for the postseason.”
In other tournament news, champion Old Mill (234 points) crowned junior Caron Tull (138) and sophomore Jackson Cohenour (145), with the former using a pair of third-period throws for a comeback, 12-10, victory over senior defending Class 2A-1A state champion Maximus Bentley of Easton. The Patriots placed nine wrestlers within the top four of their weight classes.
Wheaton placed runner-up with Ethan Christian (132) finishing in second in his weight class, and both Harrison Nchinda (126) and Jorge Lopez-Diaz (182), fourth in their respective divisions. Northwood had a runner-up in junior Mathias Adjingbaruk (285), and Einstein junior Wesley Condon (182) and senior Jeremiah Battle (195) finished in third.
For the host Panthers, senior Carlos Guardado-Eagle (138) was fourth, as was Seneca Valley sophomore Lief Garbo (195).