After entering the season with an inexperienced wrestling squad, Paul VI Catholic Coach John Welcher has been pleased with his team's improving skills. But he still wasn't sure how it would fare at last weekend's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships.
After a surprising second-place finish, Welcher and the Panthers have something significant to show for a season's worth of steady improvement. Paul VI dropped regular-season dual-meet matches to DeMatha, O'Connell and Good Counsel, but the Panthers finished ahead of all but DeMatha last weekend.
"We definitely overachieved," Welcher said.
DeMatha dominated the tournament with 249.5 points. Paul VI, led by its weight-class champions senior P.J. Worosz (171 pounds) and junior Jeff Marcey (heavyweight), took second (134).
Worosz (35-3) has been surging since losing to Westfield's Chris Goings in the first tournament of the year, the NOVA Classic. Welcher said Worosz missed two weeks of training prior to the event because the Paul VI gymnasium was closed for renovation. Worosz's only losses since that tournament were at the prestigious "Beast of the East" event.
"He's doing all the things he needs to do to be a great wrestler; the lifting, the running," Welcher said.
Marcey (36-3) scored a technical fall in his final.
Two Paul VI wrestlers placed second on Saturday. Junior Mike Aldonas (160 pounds) improved to 21-5, and junior Guidon Grundlehner (140) improved to 18-7.
A shorthanded O'Connell team, meanwhile, received a gutsy performance from senior 140-pounder R.J. Constantino and several strong performances in other weight classes to score 121.5 points and edge Good Counsel for third place.
Knights senior captain Danny Yates won the 145-pound division, pinning all three of his opponents within the first minute, and four of his teammates earned second-place finishes.
"We did quite well," O'Connell Coach Bill Carpenter said. "For us to take third without having wrestlers at 112, 119 and 215, that says a lot for our squad."
Constantino, a senior, wrestled despite a rib cartilage injury.
"He was holding his ribs during part of the consolation semifinals match [against Ireton's Gabe Lamois]," Carpenter said. "He showed a lot of courage and then somehow figured out a way to get a pin."
Constantino then beat Good Counsel's Andre Clark by injury default.
At 135, O'Connell sophomore Kris Park reached the final, where he lost to national prep champion Rudy Rueda of DeMatha. Park upset Good Counsel senior Mike Tultavall in the semifinals. It was the first time he had beaten Tultavall.
"To go out and be able to do that really showed a lot of character," Carpenter said.
At 103, junior Vonn Lewis reached the final by earning his first-ever win over DeMatha's Matt Green in the semifinals. Lewis's teammate junior Norman Anderson, the No. 3 seed, placed second.
O'Connell's Mike Laird placed second in 189 to DeMatha's Gary Stewart; and the Knights' heavyweight Warren Negri captured third place, scoring a pin in the consolation final against McNamara's Ronald Moore.
Ireton senior Brendan Pauls continued his undefeated season at 119, winning 2-0 in the final over defending champion Bryan Sanders of DeMatha. Sanders beat Pauls in last year's final.