It’s been a year of adjustment for Forest Park senior wrestler Brett Stein, both on and off the mat.
After a junior season when Stein won the Virginia AAA Northern Region 160-pound championship and finished third at the Virginia AAA state tournament for South County, Stein moved to Prince William County and transferred to Forest Park, where the Bruins travel regularly to face top-level competition and where Stein has overhauled his wrestling style to better prepare him for collegiate wrestling.
It took Stein a few weeks to get used to Prince William’s different grading style in his classes, but he feels right at home in the Bruins’ wrestling room.
Already a top wrestler in his region, Stein is now widely considered the best 170-pound wrestler in Virginia.
“It’s a big change of pace,” Stein said. “[Forest Park Wrestling Coach Seth] Cameron likes a high pace and he’s teaching me about what wrestling will be like in college. Forest Park is really getting me ready for the future.”
Stein had previously worked with Cameron and several Bruins in offseason club workouts and events, and he fits seamlessly into a Forest Park lineup that has been among the best in Virginia in recent years, but has been known more for its strength in the lower weight classes.
Cameron was impressed with Stein’s work ethic and ability to take coaching, so the pair worked on new techniques – such as attacking inside – for Stein to use against the better opponents he now more regularly faces.
“I used to wrestle for outside quick shots and would let people slow me down,” Stein said. “Wrestling inside lets me control their movements so I can get my shot easier.”
Stein – who signed in November to wrestle at Gardner-Webb – has already seen improved results, most notably when he placed sixth at Beast of the East in December after what he considered a disappointing 2-2 showing at the prestigious regional event the year before.
Stein placed fifth at the Powerade Wrestling Tournament the following weekend, then went undefeated at the Battlefield Duals at Colonial Forge.
As his final postseason approaches, Stein will be ready with a new style and a new level of experience.
“Those top level tournaments help you for the state tournaments because it makes them feel so much smaller,” Stein said. “It will almost feel like a little backyard brawl.”
Eighth-ranked Damascus exacted a measure of revenge on Saturday, downing then-No. 10 Wootton, 41-21, as part of a tri-meet at Blake. The Hornets were perfect against county competition in dual meets last year before a two-point loss to the Patriots in the Maryland 4A/3A West semifinals, but this time, Coach John Furgeson’s team took the first six bouts of the match to post a convincing victory.
“We want to compete at the state level,” said Furgeson, whose team currently holds the top spot in the region standings. “That’s been our goal all year, and we’ve been taking it one match at a time, but it was kind of nice to get those guys back.”
After graduating three wrestlers in the 100-win club, Damascus has leaned on a group of underclassmen to carry the load this year. The Hornets regularly start seven sophomores, six of whom have recorded at least 18 wins so far. Owen Brooks, a 138-pounder, leads the team with 20 victories, while 113-pounder Mikey Macklin (19-1) will try to improve on a sixth-place finish in the state tournament last year.
Five of those second-year wrestlers saw extensive action last year when the team went 14-0 in the regular season, which Furgeson credited as a byproduct of an improving feeder system.
Wrestlers who got their start in the sport representing the Damascus Sports Association helped form the foundation of the program’s success under former coach Dave Hopkins, a member of the Maryland Wrestling Hall of Fame. From 1994 to 1999, the Hornets captured three state tournament titles and two state dual meet crowns.
After several lean years, both the high school and youth programs are once again among Montgomery County’s best. Furgeson, who took over for Hopkins in 2008, has three children between the ages of 7 and 12 in the feeder system, providing him further hope that both will only get stronger.
“I’ve got some really talented freshmen that can’t even crack the lineup,” Furgeson said. “A couple years ago, we would have needed them to be full-time starters. Now we have a lot of guys in the room that are working with other high-quality guys every day and making each other better.”
The lineup may be heavy on youth, but three of the seniors, George Vinson (15-3), Caleb Baisden (17-3) and Andrew Nickell (16-3), were starters on the Damascus football team that went unbeaten during the regular season in the fall. The Hornets, who have already won the Oakdale’s Bear Cave Brawl and their own holiday tournament this season, will participate in the Catoctin Duals this weekend.
Good Counsel retained the top spot in The Post’s team rankings this week after a 40-24 dual meet win over No. 2 Spalding on Friday in Olney.
The Falcons dominated the lower weights and overcame a comeback by the middle of the Spalding lineup with a strong finish.
Junior Adam Whitesell (106 pounds) opened the match with a pin in 56 seconds, and Good Counsel won the next four matches by decision to build an 18-0 lead.
Spalding middleweights Jimmy Malone (145 pounds), Cole Graves (152) and Logan Breitenbach (160) all won their matches with pins to give Spalding a 21-18 lead before Good Counsel took points in four of the last five weight classes to seal the win.
Elsewhere this week, No. 3 Westfield earned a 34-29 dual win over archrival No. 4 Robinson during a tri-meet with Centreville at Robinson on Jan. 9.
Westfield wrestlers Derek Arnold (138 pounds), Stephen Aiello (160) and Tyler Morson (182) all beat Robinson wrestlers who had been ranked in The Post’s individual rankings to help the Bulldogs to the win.
Related: Individual, team rankings