Whitman Handles Pair of Rivals in High School Wrestling

By Jeff Greer
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Whitman's "Big Five" had a reputation to protect in yesterday's rare mid-December tri-meet wrestling match in Bethesda, and the quintet did exactly that, defeating Montgomery County rivals Magruder and Northwest. The pair of wins will go a long way toward Whitman's placement in the Region Duals at the end of February, when the four teams with the best duals record in the county are selected from a 25-school pool.

Wrestling teams of such caliber don't usually meet before January, but yesterday's showdown provided a glimpse of three teams widely considered the county front-runners for the duals. Whitman Coach Derek Manon said it was a great chance for the Vikings (6-0) to see strong competition and get good results out of it.

"Magruder and Northwest are good every year," Manon said. "We knew it would be a dogfight, and we wrestled extremely well. This is a big couple of wins for us."

The Big Five, consisting of seniors Eric Beverly, Steven Fisher and Aaron Norris and juniors Taylor Leighton and Danny Lee, won all 10 of their bouts, improving to 49-1 as a group. The 160-pound Fisher pinned Magruder's Chris Ralli in the first matchup of the meet, and Whitman was ahead the rest of the afternoon, building a lead as big as 25 against Magruder in a 41-30 win and beating Northwest, 49-18.

"It was great to get a fast start against Magruder and keep it going against Northwest," Fisher said. "To get two wins today -- two huge wins -- means a lot to this team. We just have to keep working hard and good things will happen."

Manon said the consistency of his five leaders, all of whom placed in the state tournament last season, helped the rest of his team calm down and secure the meet sweep. Senior heavyweight J.D. Hamilton improved to 9-1 with a pin and a decision while 112-pound Sawyer Symington added a pair of pins.

"Those five guys provide great leadership for us and they set the tone," Manon said after Whitman's win against Northwest. "They are great in the weight room and they're great in practice. It's like having five more coaches than our regular staff. Their success really rubs off on the rest of our guys."

Magruder Coach Max Sartoph said that as soon as he saw the first match's starting weight was set at 160, he knew his Colonels would be in trouble. The Vikings had four of their five best wrestlers start the match, and their fifth grappler, Hamilton, pinned Magruder's Alex Mayberry to help Whitman take a 25-0 lead.

Taking an early one-match lead on Magruder (5-1) and a two-match lead on Northwest, which lost to Magruder in the second match of the day, 36-28, means Whitman is in great position moving into the heart of the season.

"We work extremely hard in practice every day," Norris said. "Coach works us hard and it really pays off. Plus, having five good wrestlers with a lot of experience helps a lot. We know how to win as a team."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company