Immediately after his junior season ended prematurely, West Potomac wrestler Will Rupp started putting on weight.

Rupp had to cut nearly 20 pounds last season to wrestle as the Wolverines’ 160-pounder, and he struggled to maintain his strength while he kept his weight down, leading to a disappointing performance at the Virginia AAA Northern Region tournament and a failure to qualify for states.

“He struggled with it, and he didn’t have the muscle strength and that frustrated him,” West Potomac Coach Mike Cummings said. “In the offseason he was in the gym almost every day to bulk up.”

Rather than continuing to cut weight throughout his senior year, Rupp decided to wrestle up this season, and he has suddenly become one of the area’s dominant wrestlers in his new classification.

Weighing in regularly at about 206 pounds, Rupp jumped four weight classes from last season and heading into the Virginia AAA Patriot District tournament this weekend he boasts a 35-0 record in the 220-pound division.

“I have a lot more energy this year, and I can go to gym and get extra workouts in and eat what I want,” Rupp said. “I feel like my technique and my strength are both good.”

While he is slightly undersized for his new weight class, Rupp has the unusual advantage of having experience wrestling a much different style at the lower weights. He has the strength to avoid being out-muscled by his competition, but also has a level of quickness that is atypical for a 220-pounder.

“It’s a different style because most of the guys I wrestle don’t have the same technique and they only try to use their strength,” Rupp said. “I try to wrestle the same way I did as a [160]-pounder by taking shots and things like that, and it helps a lot.”

Rupp has earned impressive wins so far, including one against highly-ranked Skyline wrestler Justin Williams en route to a first-place finish at the Glenn Jones Charger Classic in December, but he realizes his biggest challenges of the season remain ahead.

Rupp will be a favorite at this year’s Northern Region event Feb. 8 and 9 at Hayfield, and is a realistic contender for a state title in Chesapeake the following weekend.

“I’ve been looking at some of the competition out there,” Rupp said. “I think I have a good shot at it.”

Gladiators gear up for River Hill clash

Three years ago, Glenelg’s wrestlers fought their way to a Howard County dual meet championship and marched all the way to a Maryland 2A/1A title. Those sweet memories would later bring bitter reminders.

Last season, hoping to embark on a similar run, Glenelg fell to River Hill for the county title and came up short in the state semifinals. The Gladiators knew exactly what they were missing.

In the current campaign, Glenelg (17-0) has again approached the trophy case. A dual meet between the last two teams undefeated in district competition will decide the county champion. River Hill (23-3) brings its unblemished Howard record to Glenelg on Friday night.

“We’re on the verge of something special,” Glenelg Coach Chris Rosas said.

In his fourth season at the school — his third coaching varsity — Rosas said his team has already exceeded expectations for the year.

He attributed Glenelg’s win streak to a “solid” lineup of athletes competent across all weight classes. The demanding standards of three senior captains, Sean Twigg (285), Mark Carter (138) and Anthony Pagnatta (160/170), elevated the intensity in training.

Twigg (24-1) has garnered the most accolades as an individual, winning the heavyweight championship as a junior in his first year of varsity competition. As a result, he earned honorable mention All-Met honors and committed to Maryland.

But the added attention was not necessarily a positive at first.

“I definitely felt a little more pressure than last year,” Twigg said. “As a new guy, no one really expected much. At the same time I’ve done a little bit better this year.”

The future Terrapin said he doesn’t block out the pressure, but he doesn’t feed off it either. With one title in hand, Twigg has his eyes set on defending it.

“It really was an eye-opening experience that made me like the sport more,” Twigg said. “The fun I had last year makes you hungry to do it again.”

Panthers take the MAC

Potomac School won its first Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament championship this weekend, finishing with 138 points ahead of second place Saint James (115) and third-place Sidwell Friends (113), which hosted the event.

Seven Panthers earned All-MAC honors after the tournament: Seniors Eli Ulanet (113 pounds), Gabe Corrochano (132), Cope Whitney (152), Tyler Sanders (160), Sean Spasoff (195, at-large) and Jack O’Brien (220) and sophomore Brendan Ryan (120).

Related: The latest individual and team wrestling rankings