Wrestling: River Hill duo’s practice time pays dividends; Bryan Capozzoli returns for Briar Woods

December 18, 2013

There’s a saying in wrestling that you’re only as good as your training partner, and River Hill Coach Brandon Lauer believes it.

Every day at practice, the eighth-year coach sees the adage in action as 220-pounder Cory Daniel and 195-pounder Logan Kirby warm up together. Their drills have a heightened intensity about them. Their live practice matches have evolved into chess matches.

“They raise the whole level in the room,” Lauer said. “And that benefits the whole program.”

It also benefits Daniel and Kirby individually, as two of the area’s top-ranked wrestlers in their respective weight classes never have to look outside the room for a worthy opponent. They have practiced with and against one another since they were sophomores at No. 6 River Hill, and it has shown so far this season, as each has won all three of their matches by pins.

Daniel and Kirby went a combined 78-1 last season, with Daniel winning a Maryland state championship and Kirby placing second for the second time. Both will wrestle collegiately next year, as Daniel will join four-time All-Met Nathan Kraisser (Centennial) at North Carolina and Kirby has committed to Harvard.


River Hill’s Logan Kirby, right, shown after he lost to Northwest’s Luis Beteta in last year’s state championship at 220 pounds, has started strong alongside teammate and practice partner Cory Daniel this winter. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

“It’s good because it’s just a whole ‘nother gear that isn’t really matched by some of the other kids in the state,” said Kirby, who picked up his 100th career win Tuesday night. “It’s a whole ‘nother step above where we need to be currently in high school competition. We’re working for college next year.”

Lauer said that Daniel and Kirby are two of the best wrestlers he’s ever coached. To have both in the same grade level, and in neighboring weight classes, has been a recipe for success.

“If you’ve got a training partner and then all of the sudden he graduates and no one’s competitive with you, then it’s really hard to grow and get better,” Lauer said. “It’s just nice to be able to have that. I think it benefits both of them immensely.”

Despite Daniel and Kirby’s similarities on the mat, there are also differences. Daniel is a straightforward competitor who leads by example and has his sights set on the program’s all-time wins record, which he said is within reach this season. Kirby is more cerebral, asking questions about specific strategies and techniques. Lauer said their work ethic is the common thread.

Daniel and Kirby push one another in drills and conditioning, but their practice matches are challenging in a different sense. They know each other’s tendencies before they even step on the mat and are constantly trying to find and exploit new flaws. Most of their practice matches end in a 1-1 tie or are decided by a late takedown.

“It’s not about what we’re going to do. It’s just about countering what we think the other guy’s going to do,” Daniel said. “We’ll try different things, different moves sometimes, and just keep countering and countering after that to try to score points.”

“There’s really no surprises,” Kirby added. “But then again, it usually helps if you do still have a little trick in the book.”

From sacks to the mat

For the second straight week, Briar Woods junior Bryan Capozzoli will spend his Saturday on a college campus, throwing his weight around at guys wearing different-colored jerseys.

After recording six tackles in Briar Woods 35-28 loss to L.C. Bird in the Virginia 5A football title game last week, Cappazoli didn’t have time to pout or ruminate.

On Monday, he turned his sights to wrestling, where he compiled a 41-6 record as a sophomore. All six losses were to state place-winners.

“Saturday’s loss was tough, but the season’s over, so it’s on to the next sport I guess,” said Capozzoli, who will wrestle at 220 pounds for the Falcons.

His first test comes at the prestigious Beast of the East tournament at the University of Delaware this weekend.

To prepare, he’s spent the week swapping mindsets from the gridiron to the mat. It’s a process that entails a lot of running and a refresher on technique.

“Drilling-wise, I’m trying to get my technique back a little bit,” Capozzoli said. “I’m working on a couple moves that will help me and get my cardio back in shape a little more.”

While the junior labels the two sports as “totally different,” each skill set sharpens the other.

“Football helps toughen me up a little bit, but wrestling helps me tremendously for football,” he said. “When it comes to hand-fighting and leverage, all that stuff helps on the football field.”

Without the services of Capozzoli, the Falcons jumped out to a 9-6 record in duals, but lost four of those by just one match. Briar Woods Coach Ryan Rogers is quick to point out that Capozzoli could be the difference between 9-6 and 13-2.

“He’s obviously a huge boost for our team that will anchor down the top of our lineup,” Rogers said. “It was nice to have him walk back into my room on Monday, I’ll tell you that.”

Around the area

McNamara senior Alfred Bannister finished second at 145 pounds last weekend in the Walsh Ironman Tournament, widely considered to be one of the nation’s premier high school competitions. Bannister, who is ranked fourth nationally by FloWrestling and sixth by InterMat, lost in the championship match, 2-1, after he was called for stalling. . . . Senior Josh Llopez of St. Mary’s-Ryken finished third at 170 pounds. . . . Robinson senior Jack Bass finished fourth at 152. . . .

Members of the DeMatha wrestling team wore black tape on their singlets Saturday in honor of alum Steve Sargent, who died in a car accident Friday morning. The 2007 graduate was a four-time Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion and National Preps place-winner and left DeMatha with a career record of 191-33. . . .

Wrestlers from 16 area schools will compete in the Beast of the East tournament this weekend at the University of Delaware.

“We’re hoping to have a top-eight finish, if not higher,” said Pinkston, whose Rams will bring their entire squad to participate.

The Post will have live coverage of “The Beast” during championship finals on Sunday.

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