Wakefield grappler Henry Majano gathered teammates Victor Leavell and Henry Vasquez for a meeting prior to the finals of the National District wrestling tournament on Feb. 5 at Stuart High School.
Majano reminded his fellow Warriors how the trio was in a similar situation two years ago. Majano and Vasquez were freshmen, Leavell was a sophomore and each was wrestling for a district championship.
Each Wakefield grappler came up empty.
Two years later, the Warrior wrestlers had a shot at redemption. As far as Majano was concerned, they weren’t walking away empty-handed.
"It wasn’t going to happen again," Majano said. "Going in, I called in a little group discussion: ‘We aren’t going to let that happen this year. We’re going to win it.’"
Majano was right.
Vasquez (103 pounds), Majano (130) and Leavell (145) each won a district title in his respective weight class on Saturday. Vasquez defeated Mount Vernon’s Eriq Dahlum by decision, 5-3, Majano beat Hayfield’s Nathan Coburn by decision, 10-6, and Leavell pinned Washington-Lee’s Jared Deiner. Wakefield’s three individual champions tied Hayfield for second-most at the tournament. Team champion Edison had four individual champs.
Each member of the Wakefield trio traveled a different path, but each ended at a district championship destination.
Vasquez, a junior, traveled the underdog route. Wrestling in the first finals match, the 103-pounder faced Dahlum, who entered the match with a 43-1 record. Dahlum defeated Vasquez two weeks prior at the National District Duals at Hayfield. After Saturday’s match, Vasquez said the loss motivated him.
"After he beat me, I just came in wrestling with a new mental [approach]," he said. "I just wanted to train hard so I wouldn’t get beat."
On Saturday, Vasquez led 3-2 late in the third period before gaining separation with a two-point reversal. The victory improved Vasquez’s record to 25-5.
"Vazquez really showed tremendous heart wrestling [Dahlum]," Wakefield head coach Jeff Humphries said. "He was defeated pretty soundly two weeks ago at the duals and he just came back and went at him, didn’t back down and was just courageous. I knew he was kind of crushed after losing to him and he just showed a lot of heart. …
"I can’t tell you how impressed and proud I am of my 103. Henry Vasquez, my God, littlest guy on the team but, man, does he have heart."
Majano continued down the path of domination. The junior improved to 36-0, but he had to work a little harder than usual to remain undefeated. Majano and Hayfield’s Coburn trained together during the offseason, meaning there would be no surprises.
"It’s a disadvantage because he knows everything I’m going to do and I know everything he’s going to do," Majano said. "It all comes down to who wants it more."
Majano also earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors at the tournament.
"People are running out of" the 130-pound weight class, Humphries said. "[Wade] Jacobson, 135 (champion) from Edison, was 130, he went to 135 … because of Majano."
LEAVELL TRAVELED the path of patience, improving to 26-3 and capturing his 100th career victory with a second-round pin.
"He didn’t lose his patience," Humphries said. "It was 0-0 in the first period and he didn’t force a shot. He’s notoriously tired in the third period because in the first and second periods, he’s doing all these extravagant moves, using a lot of energy … and you don’t have to do that."
Humphries said Leavell was nervous prior to his match after watching each of his teammates win. The senior said he was inspired.
"It just made me want it more," Leavell said.
While the Wakefield trio experienced success at the district level, the Warriors turn their attention to bigger goals. The Northern Region tournament begins Feb. 10 at Fairfax High School. The state tournament begins Feb. 18 at Robinson Secondary School.
In the meantime, Majano might want to create some new words of motivation.
"All three of us work hard in the wrestling room," Majano said. "We push each other. Two years ago, when this happened, we came up short. We work too hard not to win this."