There he was again, Alfred Bannister thought to himself. The old rival, and the scars he’d left, were still there, watching him from the stands at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center.
On this day, Todd Preston wore street clothes, which was not how Bannister envisioned their first meeting since that second defeat. But it would have to do.
“I needed to show him,” the 138-pounder said, “that I’m the man now.”
The Bishop McNamara junior’s final loss of his last season, in the National Prep championship last February, came against the former Blair Academy wrestler. Preston, now at Harvard, had also delivered the first, in the prestigious Beast of the East Tournament, but only by a 1-0 margin. Yet when Bannister returned to the event late last month, he had not been the one anointed the clear successor in his weight class. Mason Manville, another Blair Academy product, was the next big thing, Bannister had heard.
So Bannister pinned Manville before the first period ended, ensuring there would be no passing of the torch between Blair Academy teammates.
“They both wrestle the same, very technical. That’s what they expected from [Mason] — to do good against a wrestler like me, just like Todd did,” Bannister said. “But it didn’t happen.”
It almost never does. It hasn’t this season. Alexander, at 5 feet 3 inches a pint-sized cocktail of punishing brawn and wrestling savvy, is 27-0 with 21 pins. Three of those, including his takedown of Manville, came at Beast of the East, where Bannister was named Most Outstanding Wrestler.
To know Bannister’s wrestling lineage is to realize this success, staggering as it is, was perhaps only a matter of time. His father, Alfred Jr., was a three-time SMAC champion at McDonough. His brother, Andrew, was a three-time state champion at McNamara.
At their La Plata home, they help make Bannister’s dominance possible and the work necessary for it bearable. Three times a week, Bannister moves on from three-hour practice sessions at McNamara for even more work at a Charles County wrestling facility. He wrestles with his brother while his father, a self-styled “live-in coach,” oversees the training regimen. When Bannister comes home, he finally gets some slack: Run three miles, he knows, and the day is done.
“When it comes to practice, he might not want to practice,” Alfred Jr. said, “but he respects his coaches, and when they tell him to do it, he does it.”
He chuckled Tuesday night as he recalled his son’s struggles as a youth wrestler. The burgeoning interest in Alfred III’s career — the mailbox stuffed with recruiting letters, the persistent phone calls from college coaches — made it all seem so long ago. Only an hour earlier, he’d left a meeting with University of Maryland Coach Kerry McCoy, who wants Bannister for his own program.
One day, whether it’s in College Park or somewhere else, Alfred Jr. may see his son face Preston on the mat again. But for now, Bannister is again eyeing the National Prep tournament, where last season’s irksome results could again flip in his favor.
“Me and Mr. Manville should have a rematch there, if everything goes well,” he said, laughing.
Good Counsel junior Kyle Snyder, the top-ranked 220-pound wrestler in the country according to InterMat, orally committed to Ohio State on Tuesday night.
Snyder had also seriously considered Virginia Tech, Maryland, Army and Penn State, but committed to the No. 4 Buckeyes after a visit to their campus this week.
“I had narrowed it down to five and each of those schools was great for its own reason,” Snyder said. “But I went back to Ohio State this week after the Powerade Tournament and fell in love with the school. I decided I was ready to pull the trigger.”
The biggest selling point to Snyder was the opportunity to train regularly at The Ohio Regional Training Center, where top-level wrestlers train for the Olympic trials.
Snyder is talented enough to have realistic aspirations of becoming an Olympian, and feels the environment at Ohio State and the nearby training center give him the best opportunity to work toward his ultimate goals.
“His goal is to become an Olympic champion,” Good Counsel Coach Skylar Saar said. “There he’ll have an opportunity to train with wrestlers with similar goals on a regular basis.”
The visit and commitment capped an eventful winter break for the reigning upper-weights All-Met Wrestler of the Year, who continues his dominance of top-level high school wrestling in increasingly impressive fashion.
At the prestigious Beast of the East Tournament on Dec. 22 and 23, Snyder won three matches by pin and two by tech fall. At the equally tough Powerade event the following weekend, he won three matches by pin, one by tech fall, and won the final by major decision over Solanco (Pa.) junior Thomas Haines, a Penn State commit who is InterMat’s third-ranked 220-pound wrestler in the country.
Snyder is 21-0 this season, and 137-0 in his career at Good Counsel.