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ArlingtonSportsDouble disappointment for Arlington wrestlers

Double disappointment for Arlington wrestlers

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For high-school wrestlers in Arlington, the school system’s  recent decision to “pause” all winter sports events and practices because of COVID issues until at least Jan. 14 is like a double whammy.

Last winter, Arlington Public Schools canceled the entire wrestling campaign out of COVID safety concerns, while other winter sports were allowed to play in the county and other school jurisdictions in Northern Virginia permitted wrestling.

This winter, the wrestling season for Arlington grapplers was well under way prior to the new year. The Wakefield Warriors, Washington-Liberty Generals and Yorktown Patriots high-school squads all had a number of competitions in December. Washington-Liberty coach Dan Morreale even front-loaded the Generals scheduled in anticipation of an eventual shutdown.

“We tried to build kind of a safety net for COVID, and we wanted the wrestlers to have as much action as they could right from the start,” Morreale said.

Now, if the season resumes, the teams’ next possible matches won’t be until Saturday, Jan. 15, but more likely the three-teams Wednesday, Jan. 19 Arlington County tri-meet at W-L.

All three county squads were preparing to compete in the multi-team Joe Verciglio tournament Jan. 8 at Chantilly High School.

“They did this to us last season, and now it’s happening again. It’s no fair and I can’t believe it,” Washington-Liberty High School senior wrestler Jack Myers said. “For some of us, it’s our senior season and we would like to have a full schedule, especially after not having any season a year ago. This hurts a lot.”

Without practices allowed, Myers is concerned if the season does resume, wrestlers may not be in proper shape to continue the campaign? The postseason district tournament is scheduled for Feb. 4, with the region competition Feb. 10.

“We need to be wrestling and practicing right now,” Myers said. “Staying in proper shape is hard.” 

Myers said wrestlers will do the best they can to stay in shape on their own, but it’s not the same as having regular practices and matches. Morreale and his coaching staff hold some “virtual” team practices with various workouts.

“That is the best we have been able to do,” Morreale said.

The coach explained what makes the “pause” even more frustrating is positive tests have been very low among W-L wrestlers.

“We have the numbers to back that up,” Morreale said. “Our wrestlers are vaccinated and have been doing everything right to keep COVID out of our [wrestling] room, and we still get penalized.”

One of the top wrestlers for W-L so far has been John Baker, who finished 4-0 with two pins and a bye at 182-pound to win the individual title at a tournament at Langley High School. Myers finished second at the 145 weight and Dominik Woodward was fourth at 120. Henry Morgan (106) finished fifth and Chris Castillo (120) and Khangal Dulguun (160) were sixth.

As a team, the Generals finished third with a 3-2 record at the Annandale duals, and fifth with a 4-3 mark at Sherando duals.

Yorktown had champions Max Apsel (138) and Ian Haddad (195) at Cavalier Classic at W.T. Woodson High School in December, with heavyweight Blake Buchert second and Garrett Dexter (132) fourth.

Apsel was 3-0 with a pin and Haddad 3-0 with three first-period pins.

At the earlier NOVA Classic, Liam Gil-Swiger finished sixth for Yorktown at 152, Buchert was fifth at heavyweight, Haddad seventh at 195 and Telmuun Byambajargal eighth at 220.

“To be ready to return, we have been focusing on providing our wrestlers with workouts and video review,” Yorktown coach Andrew Adams said. “Our wrestlers push each other, and the leaders on the team are making sure everyone is putting in the work they need to be ready for when we return. This pause has been really disruptive, causing us to completely change our schedule and miss out on some valuable competition.”

At the Battle of the Bridge at Woodbridge High School, Wakefield’s Rhys Carlson was fourth at 160.

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