NEWARK , Del.— Bishop McNamara senior Alfred Bannister turned to the crowd, raised his arms and did a quick flex of his biceps. It was a small gesture, but it signaled a big accomplishment — his second consecutive title at the Beast of the East wrestling tournament.
“It shows the dedication of my family, my father,” said Bannister, who won the 145-pound title Sunday after winning the 138-pound championship last season. “This is what we dreamed about going into high school. To win it twice is just the icing on the cake.”
Bannister may have faced the crowd by himself, but the lead-up to his 3-2 decision over Cumberland’s Patrick Duggan in the final was anything but a solitary endeavor.
While other wrestlers who had qualified for the finals spent their down time sitting, jogging in place or sparring invisible opponents, Bannister ratcheted up the intensity.
Bannister and his older brother Andrew — a three-time state champion at McNamara in his own right who now wrestles at Notre Dame (Ohio) — found a spot on a spare mat in the corner of the Bob Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware and ran through every conceivable situation Alfred might face in the final. And they did it at full speed.
“Before the match, we go over all my setups, all my shots that I need to do to get the takedown,” said Bannister, who has committed to wrestle next year at Maryland. “He and my dad know me best.”
When Bannister was called on for his final, Andrew took a seat in the front row of the crowd. It was Dad’s turn to help out.
A.J. Bannister — a Mustangs assistant — secured Alfred in a bear hug and lifted him to chest level. It’s part of the standout’s pre-match routine.
“[My dad] cracks my back before every match, holds my headgear before every match, and I give him a high-five,” Bannister said. “It’s just something we do.”
The first period was scoreless, with Bannister remaining primarily on the defensive.
“In the second period, we needed it even more,” he said. “I chose down [position] and got an escape. That was the plan.”
He followed it up with a takedown late in the second and held off two late Duggan escapes.
Elsewhere, St. Mary’s Ryken senior Josh Llopez won third at 170 pounds, avenging a loss by fall he suffered against Blair’s Brandon Dallavia in the championship bracket quarterfinals.
Llopez, who entered as the No. 3 seed, was disappointed.
“I give myself a D-minus,” he said. “I just beat the kid who beat me, and it was just a poor performance all around. It’s a good feeling, but it’s expected. I don’t believe in quitting.”
Ryken’s Steven Simpson placed fourth at 120 pounds, as did Georgetown Prep’s Michael Sprague (138) and Robinson’s Cole Depasquale (182). Prep’s Eric Hong finished fifth at 120 pounds.
Robinson finished 15th in team points with 83.5. Blair Academy (N.J.) won the meet with a team score of 272.