The high school wrestling regular season is over and done with, and now the real competition begins
with post-season tournaments beginning this weekend.“From a practice stand point, not really much is different,” said George C. Marshall Head Coach Jason Planakis, who will lead his Statesmen into the Liberty District tournament this Friday and Saturday at Langley High.
In the Liberty District, it looks as though Fairfax and Langley are the teams to beat, with Marshall and Thomas Jefferson planning to make some noise. The Statesmen lost to Langley in a dual meet last month 40-23, and fell to Fairfax 43-34 back in December.
“We had hoped to do a little better against Langley,” said Planakis. “They’re a pretty strong, solid team up and down the line. But I think we’re a better tournament team. I think we have some guys who can go pretty far in the district and the region. I think we have a good chance to get five or six guys in the finals, two or three champs.
“Those two, right now we’re aiming towards both of them,” Planakis added, referring to Fairfax and Langley. “I’d be happy if we can pass up one, if not both.”
While a team title would be satisfying, it’s about the individuals at this stage in the game. The top four wrestlers in each weight class move on to regionals next week.
The Statesmen should be guided by senior Mark Bergenholtz (189-pound weight class), junior Daniel Picado (145) and senior Andrew Embree (215).
“He’s probably our most accomplished wrestler this season,” Planakis said of Embree. “He’s got a strong shot at winning the State.”
One unknown for Marshall is that of junior Garrett Giles, who wrestles at the 160-pound weight class and has been injured with a dislocated shoulder most of the year.
“It feels great,” Giles said of his shoulder. “It’s strong. I’m 99.9 percent.”
The junior believes that the injury could give him an advantage heading into the Liberty District tournament. He’s an unknown factor, and has been working on the little things this season.
“I missed out on a lot of mat time,” Giles said. “My technique is good because all I’ve been doing is drilling. I haven’t really gone live. Maybe my wrestling endurance isn’t as good because I haven’t been out there on the mat but my overall endurance is pretty good. It hasn’t affected me too much.”
Whatever the case, Giles said he is focused on how his team will do.
“We’re going to have a lot of finalists I think, a lot of people that place,” the junior said. “This year is going to be really good for us.”
One team looking to make an impact at the Liberty District wrestling competition is McLean High School.
The Highlanders team is young, with four freshmen starters and only two healthy seniors. Coach Kenneth Jackson hopes to place five or six wrestlers in the top four.
“We’re a really young team,” the coach said. “Our two seniors definitely should place.”
Seniors Billy Dvorkin (189) and Ethan Arkin (130, down from his usual 135) should make impacts, as well as freshman Forrest Stieg (135) and sophomore Austin Miller (125).
“He did a lot of work in the offseason,” Jackson said of Miller. “People have taken notice.”
Overall, this weekend should be another step in the building of the McLean program.
“We improved over last year,” Jackson said. “We’re building the program a little bit at a time.”