Topping the podium
SMR wrestling season caps off with Waldorf resident Sandoval’s 3rd-straight state title, 2nd-place finish in nation at National Preps tourney
It was a remarkable season for the St. Mary’s Ryken Knights wrestling team.
The Knights had a 30-win campaign during the dual meet season and a thirdplace finish, the program’s best ever, at the Washing- ton Catholic Athletic Conference tournament.
The accolades continued at Maryland Independent States tournament Feb. 18 at Harford Com- munity College in Bel Air as junior King Sandoval captured his third straight state title.
Sandoval, a Waldorf resident who wrestles at 120 pounds, defeated Archbishop Spalding’s Paul Truntich in the final, a 6-2 decision.
Grady Hotz (132), from Leonardtown, finished seventh. He won the sev- enth-place match by a 4-3 three-overtime decision over Josh Aybar of Loyola Blakefield. Hotz’s final record was 62-12.
“I will always remember the bond we had as a team and as coaches and how we were so close, closer than any other team I’ve ever been on,” Hotz said.
Ernie Sigmon (182), from Mechanicsville, took fifth overall with a 10-4 victory over Drew Brenowitz of Good Counsel and finished 50-9 over- all this season.
Sandoval said the game plan coming into the state finals was to keep moving no matter what happened.
“That’s something that really helped me coming into the finals,” he said. “I’ve faced Truntich before and we have gone back and forth on wins through the past couple years. He’s a very tough opponent and I knew in order to win I couldn’t make any mistakes or er- rors and had to just keep moving.”
Sandoval added that SMR head coach Vince Whittles and assistant coaches Josh Llopez, John Donato and Steve Cannon always express the importance of increasing ones pace as the match progresses.
“I can thank my coaches for that because they’ve been training me to not only keep my pace going during a match, but to also have it last even past the end of the third peri- od,” he sad. “Keeping my motion going at all costs was a key aspect in win- ning in the finals, keep the opponent defending you and not the other way around. You can always stop someone’s offense with your own.”
The following weekend, Sandoval and Sigmon took part in the National Preps tournament at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
Sigmon went 2-2. He was pinned by Judah Duhm of McCallie (Tenn.) in 3:53, won with a pin over Atoy Smith of St. Benedict’s (N.J.) in 3:53. He defeat- ed Brady Worthington of Blair (N.J.) by 3-1 decision and was eliminated from competition after being pinned by William Roe- shot of Kiski (Pa.) in 1:26.
Sandoval ended up finishing second in the na- tion at 120.
He had four straight victories heading into the final having pinned Matthew Cuomo of Choate Rosemary (Conn.) in 1 minute 39 seconds, defeated Patrick Cole of Paul VI (Va.) by technical fall, 15-0, defeated Gabriel Elker of MBA (Tenn.) by a 6-4 decision and defeated Michael Madara of Blair (N.J.) in the semifinals in a 3-1 decision.
Sandoval came up against Beau Barlett of Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and lost in a 6-2 decision. His record finished at 63-7.
“My goals this year were to win states, and national preps, but I came up a lit- tle short for that [national preps],” Sandoval said. “That will be my same goal for next year and that will be my last shot at winning the title for myself [in high school]. It feels pretty good to be num- ber one in the state again. There was a lot of stuff I needed to clean up with my technique during the course of the season.”
Sandoval admitted he feared winning it all.
“At first coming into the national prep tournament I was very nervous,” he said. “Not about losing any match in particular, but of what I was capable of regarding winning the whole tournament. It was the thought of success that frightened me most coming in, and that always has been the case when I come into a very hard competition of this sort.”
Ironically, it is his “light” in the sport that frightens Sandoval the most, not knowing what he’s capable of doing.
“Through the tournament I only focused on the next match that I had in front of me so I wouldn’t get too worried about the tournament altogether,” Sandoval said. “I only focused on winning the match that I had in the current round, and that mindset really got me through the whole tournament. Although I came up short in the finals it was still an amazing feeling to make it all the way and become an All-American again. My semifinals match was one that specifically challenged me the most for a variety of reasons.
“I was seeded below my opponent because he had beaten many people that I have lost to, and he had placed higher than me at other national events leading up to the national prep tourna- ment. I didn’t let any of that get to my mind when wrestling him, and only thought of the positive that could come out. My dad [Carlos] has been telling me since back in December that the Blair Academy guy was who I was gonna have in the semifinals, and we have been preparing drastically for when the day came. Thanks to him, my coaches, and teammates I was able to win and make it to the finals for the first time.”
Sandoval said after the finals loss, he was already thinking of his senior year.
“With the help of my coaches I think I can achieve this goal.” he said. “Although we still have a lot of youth on the team, we still strive to progress as much as we can, not only as individual wrestlers, but as a family all together. Coming back next year, the majority of the team will be seniors so there’s a great deal of hope that next year will be the best team that Ryken has ever had in the histor y of wrestling.
“I hope that next year everyone can have the chance to place at states, and possibly make it to national preps. I know this goal is very far fetched from what we accomplished this year, but through it all, I know we can do it if we put our minds to it.”
Sandoval said he will now start training for the freestyle and Greco-Roman styles.
“I’m preparing this summer for Junior Nationals up in Fargo, North Dakota and I can’t wait to see what next season has to offer for me,” he said.
St. Mary’s Ryken junior wrestler and Waldorf resident King Sandoval, top middle, receives his first-place honors at the Maryland Independent Schools state tournament Feb. 18. Sandoval, now a three-time state champion who also finished second in the nation at National Preps, said he is aiming for the same next season.