McNamara sophomore Alfred Bannister cracked a hint of a smile as he stepped forward Saturday afternoon to accept the small trophy for most outstanding wrestler of the inaugural Battlin’ Barons Duals at Bethesda-Chevy Chase. The 138-pounder held the reward for his latest dominating performance to his chest and posed for a picture.
If Bannister looked at ease in the moment, it might be because he’s had plenty of practice this season. Even as his team lost all seven of its matches, the Mustangs’ standout went unbeaten in the two-day event with six pins to earn the top honor at a major local tournament for the third time this season.
With more than a month remaining, Bannister ran his overall record this season to 47-1 with an eye-popping 40 pins. He’s only been taken down twice as he continues to raise his profile in the wrestling community.
“At national tournaments, they don’t even know my school,” said Bannister, who picked up his 100th career win on Friday. “I walk onto the mat with a singlet that says ‘Bishop McNamara,’ they say, ‘Who is this guy?’ I had to earn my respect.”
Bannister was good last season, winning the Maryland Independent Schools title at 125 and finished 57-5 overall with a perfect record against local competition, but he’s been almost unstoppable this winter.
A 5-foot-3 ball of muscle who can squat 500 pounds and plays running back on McNamara’s junior varsity football team, Bannister was named outstanding wrestler at the prestigious Ray Oliver Invitational last month. He took the honor again at North County’s Keaser Classic before breezing through a talented field the past two days.
Among Bannister’s opponents, only Bethesda-Chevy Chase junior Charlie Banaszak avoided a pin, falling 20-11 on Friday in a 145-pound match.
“He’s certainly a force to be reckoned with,” said long-time DeMatha Coach Richard Messier, whose fifth-ranked Stags (11-0) took the team title on Saturday.
For all that success, Bannister would rather focus on the lone blemish in his impressive campaign. He fell to Todd Preston of national power Blair Academy (N.J.) in the final of the 96-team Beast of the East tournament on Dec. 18.
Preston — ranked fifth in the country by Intermatwrestle.com — captured a 1-0 decision, scoring the only point on a third-period escape. Bannister hopes for a chance to avenge the loss at the season-ending National Prep tournament.
“It just showed me how much harder I have to work,” Bannister said. “These guys on my team are always telling me I’m the best, but I know I’m not. It really opened my eyes.”
“Alfred Bannister is Bishop McNamara wrestling right now,” Wicks said.
“Everybody knows about Bishop McNamara wrestling because of Alfred Bannister.”