Season Preview: Wrestling team grapples with loss of seniors

By Rachel Lang

The wrestling team is pinning its hopes on winning both the county and regional championships after claiming the county championship for the last two years and the regional championship for the past three. The Vikes ended last season with six wrestlers qualifying for states.

195 lb wrestler Max Session battles an opponent during a match last season. With half of last year's starting line-up gone due to graduation, the team aims to gain experience throughout the season. Photo courtesy of Max Sessions.
The team returns only seven starters out of its 14-member lineup. Graduated seniors include Eric Harder, Mike Harder, Ned Daryoush, Andrew Follmann and Alex Hysong. Both Eric Harder and Follmann were named to the All-Gazette first team for the 2011 season and they both placed in the top six at the state tournament. Mike Harder and Daryoush narrowly missed out on placing after they both went 2-2 at the tournament.

“This was a very talented and accomplished group of wrestlers,” head coach Derek Manon said.  “We will have to find young wrestlers who are hungry to fill those spots in the lineup.  However, we have a talented group of young freshmen and sophomores who are working hard early this season to fight for a varsity spot.”

Manon is counting on heavyweight Josh Daryoush and 180 lb. Brad Taylor to lead the team. Both wrestlers qualified for last season’s state tournament, where Josh went 2-2 and narrowly missed placing and Taylor went 1-1 before succumbing to injury.

“This is the first time that they have been thrust into this type of leadership role on the wrestling team because of the successful seniors we’ve had for the past three plus years,” Manon said.

Manon also expects seniors Lucas Roldos, Rafi Sayada, Abby Fisher and Kevin Whitmeyer to step up and provide leadership.

“All four wrestlers have worked extremely hard in the offseason to prepare for their final seasons,” he said. “Kevin and Lucas have particularly worked hard in the weight room and their hard work is evident in their new found strength on the mat.”

Underclassman also will prove vital to the team’s success, Manon said. Prominent returning sophomores include 195 lb. Max Sessions, 106 lb. Harriet Symington and 132 lb. Kevin Baker. Although Sessions is currently the only of the three to have won a starting spot in the “wrestle-off” that determines who will wrestle varsity in each weight class, the 106 and 132 spots in particular are very competitive and subject to change throughout the season.

“Every year there are a couple of weight classes that are very competitive,” Manon said. “[106] will be a very competitive weight class and I’m sure that whoever wins each wrestle off will continue to get challenged by the other throughout the year.”

Veterans and newcomers alike clocked long hours in the off-season in both the weight room and on the track, led by assistant coach Will Sharbaugh (’07). Sessions thinks that the team’s practices are the most grueling in the area.

“Everyone knows that we have the hardest working and most conditioned wrestlers,” he said. “That’s why everyone comes from all over the county to work out with us.”

Conditioning is one of the main points outlined in the team’s keys to success, commonly known as the “ABCDs” to the team.

“A’ stands for attitude. It’s always important because if you believe you can win, you most likely will win. ‘B’ is basics: even though there are a lot of fancy moves out there, the basics always get you the pin. ‘C’ is conditioning, and ‘D’ is determination,” Sessions said.

As the season unfolds, there may be some pleasant surprises. Freshman Aidan Leighton follows in the large footsteps of his brother Taylor Leighton (’10), a Whitman wrestling legend. Taylor was an All-Gazette Honorable Mention both his junior and senior years, and was one win shy of a postseason sweep his senior year. After impressing the coaching staff with his knowledge of the sport and beating the former starter in a wrestle-off, Aidan won the varsity spot at 132.

“Aidan is coming to us with a wealth of experience,” Manon said. “I’ve known him for a couple of years now and I’m hoping that he can continue to match the work ethic of the older guys in the room.”

In addition to Aidan, the coaching staff also sees varsity potential in two other freshmen who have youth league experience, Mikal Nathani and Evan Smith.

“Both are working hard and improving every day,” Manon said.

Manon believes that Springbrook, Magruder, Clarksburg and B-CC are the team’s biggest challenges, the matches of which fall on Jan. 21, Jan. 25, Jan. 21 and Feb.4, respectively.

The season begins against Poolesville Dec. 7 at 6:00 p.m.