Good Counsel wrestling Coach Skylar Saar put together what he called the toughest schedule in his nine years with the Falcons this season, hoping to challenge his stable of elite wrestlers.
So far, the brutal early-season slate has suited his team just fine.
Good Counsel finished third at the Raymond B. Oliver Invitational and 11th at the Walsh Ironman event — both best among local teams — to earn the top spot in The Post’s season-opening Top 10 wrestling rankings.
Seven Falcons are also represented in the Post’s individual rankings to start the season.
“We’ve never had a December like this before,” said Saar, whose team will also travel to the Beast of the East Tournament at The University of Delaware and the Powerade Christmas Tournament in Pennsylvania later this month. “Our boys have done pretty well.”
Good Counsel’s most notable wrestler remains 220-pound junior Kyle Snyder, the returning All-Met Wrestler of the Year for upper weights and a future Olympic hopeful who is widely considered one of the best high school wrestlers ever to come through this area.
Snyder, ranked No. 1 nationally in his weight class by InterMat, won his weight class at the Ironman event against top national competition while 195-pound senior Spencer Neff and heavyweight junior Jemal Averette both placed sixth.
“The end of our lineup is really strong,” Saar said. “Spencer and Kyle wrestle the most together and the whole room feeds off of them.”
One hundred and six pound junior Adam Whitesell and 138-pound junior Matt Kelly are also both returning state placers, while 120-pound freshman Kevin Budock and 182-pound senior Philip Robilotto also open the year ranked by The Post.
Perennial Virginia AAA title contender Robinson will be strengthened by the return of 138-pound senior Dallas Smith and 152-pound junior Jack Bass, both state finalists on the Rams’ 2011 state championship team.
Smith wrestled for Christiansburg last season and won the Virginia AA 138-pound championship, while Bass moved to Texas and was a state runner-up there.
“It’s great to have them back,” Robinson Coach Bryan Hazard said. “There were many reasons why they left. It didn’t have to do with them. A lot of it had to do with the scenarios in the family. Having them back is a big lift to the team.”
Junior heavyweight Jake Pinkston — a two-time state finalist — also returns, as does 160-pound junior Zak DePasquale after a serious leg injury kept him out of most of last season and threatened to end his wrestling career.
Wrestling offers little sanctuary for the juvenile or childish, but on that March day, few coaches had a new toy shinier than Brandon Lauer’s. When the River Hill coach raised the Maryland Class 4A/3A team title trophy in Cole Field House last spring, the first ever in school history, he could point to his prize with all the glee of a 6-year-old on Christmas morning.
Half a year later, Lauer has moved onto another season, with dreams of more first-place finishes still to come. But not everyone has been so hasty. High schoolers, the seventh-year coach has learned, can be about as impressionable as toddlers when you’ve got a championship for a recruiting chip.
“More than likely, if you’re successful, people want to be around that,” Lauer said of the No. 7 Hawks. “People want to see what it’s about.”
It’s no surprise, then, that in the span of one offseason, the Hawks’ program, already one of the area’s best, has also become one of the biggest. The school’s varsity and junior varsity teams total 46 wrestlers, Lauer said, enough to fill out two- and three-deep lineups in all 14 weight classes.
The sheer size can present logistical problems — finding practice space for what amounts to two classrooms full of teenagers is an ever-present problem — but the new enlistees, Lauer said, are like “family.” And why turn away family members who only want to help?
“That,” Lauer said, “is the foundation.”
Longtime DeMatha Coach Dick Messier won his 500th dual meet last week in a 69-12 win over McNamara.
“It’s more a tribute to the teams and kids we’ve had in our program that have upheld some sort of tradition,” Messier said. “I don’t think I have another 500 in me, but another hundred would be nice.”
Coverage note: The Post’s high school sports coverage area no longer includes Frederick, Fauquier or Stafford counties.