During the finals of the Northern Region Classic on Saturday at Fairfax High School, a row of chairs was assembled so the top eight finishers in each weight class had a place to sit while awaiting their respective medal ceremony. Wakefield junior Henry Majano sat in the first-place chair among fellow medal-winners when he was asked how he felt during his championship performance.
Majano smiled and said: "I felt like I was ready because of the offseason. I was ready to go from the beginning."
Majano defeated Westfield’s Stephen Aiello by decision, 16-5, to win the 130-pound championship — a performance Wakefield head coach Jeff Humphries called "dominant." While resting after, Majano spoke about his eclectic offseason training. He wrestled in tournaments. He wrestled at camps. He lifted weights, played football and basketball. But even with all the hard work he’s put in during the last 10 months, his drive to succeed on the mat at the Northern Region Classic — and beyond — started in last year’s tournament. He was a sophomore wrestling in the 119-pound class and fell short of the championship match.
"I knew I wanted to win this," Majano said Saturday. "Last year I took fifth in this tournament and I wasn’t satisfied with that. I needed to win it."
Majano has always been dedicated to the sport, but increased his workload headed into his junior season.
"Freshman year, we just told him, ‘You can be as good as you want to be if you focus yourself,’" Humphries said. "He took that to heart and his hard work paid off."
A lot of Majano’s hard work starts with self-motivation. Wakefield, a school with an enrollment of around 1,500, lacks depth in its wrestling program. In practice, Majano wrestles against assistant coach Lee Keeling or a teammate in a different weight class, leading to a mismatch. Wrestling-power Westfield, by comparison, has an enrollment approaching 3,000 and plenty of talent in the program.
"To be as good as he is," Humphries said of Majano, "and to stay in the type of condition he’s in without a really solid workout partner is difficult."
Keeling is usually Majano’s toughest practice competition. A former state champion at Arundel, an AA high school in Roanoke, and college wrestler at James Madison, Keeling has the experience to help Majano reach the next level.
"He’s got the raw talent," Keeling said. "He runs faster than I do, he’s strong for his size, he has the raw skill, he just [needed] the technical expertise. …
"The problem with our school is, he’s not drilling with a state champ. If I don’t wrestle him, then he’s wrestling with a guy who went 0-2 in a tournament. … I beat up on him some days, I yell at him every day. I’m just trying to make him dominant and mentally tough."
Majano said he appreciates the help.
Keeling "pushed me when I couldn’t go anymore," Majano said. "He made me lift one more rep when I couldn’t lift anymore, he made me run more when I needed to run more. He pushed me to do the most I could. … He never stopped believing in me."
Majano was the only wrestler from a National District school to reach the championship match in any weight class. Looking ahead, the junior said his goals are to win districts, regionals and states.
While he might not be surrounded by teammates on many medal stands, Majano has shown the talent and dedication to bring accolades to the Wakefield program.
"I don’t care what other schools have," he said. "I’ve got [some] of the best coaches in the state at Wakefield. I’m satisfied with that. I love Wakefield and I want to be there."