DeMatha's Matt Dugan (top) and Adam Healy of Seminarycompete in the St. Albans wrestling tournament’s 140-pound class finals in February 2008. This weekend marks the 52nd installment of the event, which is among the oldest in the nation. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Bob Andreoli remembers his first year at the St. Albans wrestling tournament in 1975, when the field consisted of 16 local teams. He remembers looking around the old Activities Gym, where wrestlers were cramped alongside fans, parents and coaches while competing on two mats.

“I can’t believe that we fit 16 teams with all their fans in there,” Andreoli said, laughing, “but we did.”

In the 38 years since, Andreoli has watched that tournament grow into what it is today: one of the oldest and most prestigious high school wrestling tournaments in the region and, possibly, the nation. This weekend will mark the 52nd installation of the event, which began in 1963 but has roots dating to the early 1950s. That puts it among the oldest high school tournaments in the country, alongside the National Prep Wrestling Championship and Geary Tournament in Oklahoma.

“It seems like it’s a high point for a lot of these guys’ seasons,” St. Albans Coach Chuck Crossan said. “The tradition’s great. You just see some really good high school wrestling, some kids from New Jersey, Pennsylvania. And it really kind of showcases Virginia, Maryland and D.C. as well.”

The beginnings of the tournament trace back to 1953, when it was called the Washington Metropolitan Tournament and rotated among several District schools. Then in 1963, St. Albans, a frequent host and champion of the tournament, withdrew and created its own event, originally named the Bulldog Wrestling Tournament.

Much has changed since those early years, and today the tournament regularly features 30-40 teams, including some of the best in the country and perennial powers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. It has also moved from the old Activities Gym to the new, spacious Martin Gym.

“It’s a much smoother-running tournament now, simply because we have the space and a lot of us have been here doing this a long time now,” Andreoli said. “It kind of runs like clockwork.”

It runs so smoothly in large part because of tournament director David Baad, administrator Doug Boswell and Andreoli, who was the head coach at St. Albans for more than 30 years before stepping back and becoming an assistant coach six years ago. He has helped plan and organize the tournament every year since 1975.

Andreoli said the quality of competition at the event has dramatically improved over the years with the addition of nationally ranked teams like Blair Academy (N.J.), DeMatha and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.). Today, an individual title at the St. Albans Tournament carries as much weight as anything short of a state championship.

Andreoli has witnessed that evolution every step of the way, for 38 years and counting.

“It’s incredibly tiring. At the end of that two days, I feel like I’ve been in the gym for two weeks,” he said. “But it’s also very exciting. The caliber of wrestling is just absolutely top-notch. So it’s exciting — and a lot of fun.”

Mount Vernon’s Adusei moves up, aims high

The skipped school lunches and after-practice marathon workouts at Graves Fitness Center on Ft. Belvoir were starting to wear on Mount Vernon’s Bill Adusei.

The defending AAA state champion at 126 pounds had already been through one mid-season class jump (bumping up from 120 during his freshman year), so why not another?

Three weeks ago, the sophomore officially made the switch and now stands at 31-1 heading into this weekend’s Conference 13 meet.

“I moved up because cutting weight was getting a little hard,” Adusei said. “We were thinking that it’d probably be easier for me to go up. My style hasn’t really changed, but I feel better on the mat, though. I’m closer to my natural weight, and I just feel stronger.”

Taking Adusei’s place at 126 is his practice partner and senior Chris Johnson. Johnson, who missed most of the season with injuries, is 12-1. Coach Anthony McDuffie is tweaking the lineup to help the two go on deep postseason runs.

“Because this is a rebuilding year, there’s no pressure on us to win a district championship or anything like that, so we can focus on C.J. and Bill,” McDuffie said.

Conditioning is still Adusei’s weak spot, but he has improved mightily thanks to the Majors’ regimen of daily three-mile runs followed by weight-lifting sessions.

“I can’t get any other guys [besides Johnson and Adusei] to lead the team, so we’re just going to go out like Spartans,” McDuffie said.

“Bill thrives off that. He’s the real deal. If you’ve never wrestled Bill Adusei, and you start banging on your head, he’s tough.”

Adusei thrives in the spotlight, which will only get brighter when college recruiters come calling.

“My favorite part is having people like you [reporters] call me up,” Adusei said. “I kinda feel like a superstar. “

At last weekend’s Lancer Invitational in Midlothian, Adusei scored a 5-2 win over South County’s Hunter Manley. Manley was featured in The Post’s individual rankings at 132 pounds on Jan. 8.

Adusei’s physical prowess is matched by his knowledge of the sport and even-keel demeanor off the mat.

“The kid can coach youth kids,” McDuffie said. “It’s amazing; he’s a better coach than I am. He can sit there and coach little kids on the mat, and he has a calming effect with them.”

“He understands it’s a game, it’s a sport. Once you lose, there’s no need to come back and cry over spilt milk.”

But he’s only lost once, and might not again for a while. The combination of VHSL’s re-classification and Adusei’s move sets up a potential tantalizing state title match with Briar Wood’s Michael Hulcher, The Post’s second-ranked wrestler at 132 pounds.

“All we know about that is that Hulcher’s a state champ, and we don’t overlook anybody,” McDuffie said. “That’s the good thing about Bill. He’s humble.”

The eighth-year head coach is also endeavoring to schedule a match for Adusei with Good Counsel’s Kevin Budock, The Post’s top-ranked wrestler in the weight class.

“That’s got to happen at some point,” he said.

Wrestling rankings: Individual and team