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It’s All Robinson at Region Wrestling Tournament

Dominant showing by Rams has them rolling heading into states.

The Robinson Secondary wrestling team has almost always been one of the top programs in the Northern Region. But capturing region titles has never been a given for the Rams. Going into last weekend’s region championships, the program had not taken a region title since 1991.

“We’ve been in the mix every year,” said Bryan Hazard, the Rams’ 15th year head coach who was a Robinson team member way back on that region title team in ’91.

It’s been a long time coming, but Robinson garnered another region championship last Saturday night. The Rams, in dominant fashion at the two-day region tournament event held Feb. 11-12 at Fairfax High School, saw seven of their wrestlers win individual titles on way to garnering, with relative ease, the team crown. Hazard’s squad tallied 260.50 points to finish well ahead of runner-up and defending region champion Westfield (208), a team that, a week earlier, had captured the Concorde District title ahead of second place Robinson.

South County was the third place team at regionals, well behind the Rams and Bulldogs with 118 points but ahead of fourth place Annandale (92), fifth place Hayfield (78), and sixth place Lee (69). Rounding out the top 10 teams at the 30-school event were seventh place Mount Vernon (65), eighth place Edison (62), ninth place Langley (58) and 10th place Lake Braddock (54).

Other local teams at the postseason meet, included 13th place Fairfax (50.50 points), 21st place Thomas Jefferson High (24), 26th place Woodson (21.50), and West Springfield.

Robinson will next move on to this Friday and Saturday’s Virginia State AAA championships which, fittingly, will take place at the Rams’ home gymnasium at Robinson.

Robinson won the state title in 1985. The current squad is hungry to gain another this weekend.

“I think we have a team that can perform [exceptional] at the next level,” said Hazard, of states. “But we have to do it. We need some heroes.”

<b>ROBINSON</b> had plenty of heroes last week in winning its fourth region crown in 30 years – the other region title teams coming in 1981, ’85, and ’91. The Rams got individual championships from the following wrestlers: Jake Pinkston (heavyweight); Wes Jones (160); Brooks Martino (135); Jack Bass (125); Jake Smith (119); Dallas Smith (112); and Lucas Sodergren (103).

So in 14 weight brackets, the Rams took home seven titles.

Pinkston, at heavyweight, was a 3-2 finals winner over Westfield’s Tyler DeLeon (35-11 record), the defending region champion. A freshman, Pinkston showed the demeanor and coolness of a seasoned athlete.

“I’m very proud,” said Pinkston (30-11). “This is my first [region] tournament championship and I worked hard for this. All the sprints and [hard work] in practice has paid off. At the beginning of the season I knew I would do some things but never would have imagined winning the region.”

Pinkston, in reaching the finals, won matches over Edison’s David Lazo second period pin), Marshall’s Matt Crawford, 7-4, and, in the semifinals, Woodson’s Carson Brown (third period pin).

Jones (44-6), a senior with 150-plus career wins, bested senior Christian Merino of South County, 5-2, in a hard-fought title match. Jones, this year’s Concorde District champion, built a 5-1 third period lead and held off the talented Merino (30-5). Jones reached the championship match with wins over Falls Church’s Mohammed Umaid (first period pin), T.C. Williams’ Marvin Gomez (second period pin), and, in the semis, Hayfield’s Chris Stone (8-0 major decision).

At 135 weight class, Robinson’s Martino (39-6) captured his second consecutive region crown with an efficient 6-0 title match win over T.C. Williams senior Omar Maknassi (33-4). Ahead 2-0 in the second period, Martino, a junior, used a reversal on his opponent to increase his lead to 4-0 with 1 minute, 15 seconds remaining in the period. Late in the third and final period, he earned takedown points to account for the final score.

Martino made it to the finals by defeating South County’s Ryan Bishop (second period pin), Mount Vernon’s Cody Marino (second period pin), and Lake Braddock’s Rory Renzi (20-5 technical fall) in the semifinals.

In the 125 weight class, Robinson’s Bass, who a week earlier had won the Concorde District title despite being the No. 5-seed, experienced another winning weekend, taking the region crown by major decision, 12-2 over Annandale’s Dane Harlowe, a two-time region champion. Bass (38-6), a freshman, went on to earn Most Outstanding Wrestler honors during brief post meet ceremonies.

During the regular season, Bass missed four district dual meet matches as the result of an injury. Thus, he was not one of the top seeded wrestlers at districts. But he has proven to be at or close to full strength over the postseason and has two titles to show for it.

“I’m peaking at the right time,” said Bass. “I’m wrestling my matches and staying focused.

He was naturally pleased with his finals win over Harlowe (29-5), a junior and three-time Patriot District champion, but felt he could have done even better.

“I didn’t capitalize on a lot of stuff,” he said. “I like to always push the pace.”

Bass is looking forward to states.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself and feel I’ll do pretty well [at states] and be even stronger [physically],” said Bass, who made it to the finals with wins over Fairfax High’s Kevin Richards (first period pin), Woodson’s David Taves (second period pin), and McLean’s Austin Miller (21-7, major decision). “As a team we out-train everybody and push each other.”

<b>IN THE 119 FINALS</b>, Robinson’s Jake Smith (39-6) built a 2-0 lead before the match was stopped with 1:19 remaining in the second period. Smith’s opponent, Edison’s Brock Jacobson (44-9), was injured and the match could not be resumed. As a result, Smith was the champion by injury default. It marked the second region title for Smith, a former state runner-up. Jacobson, a freshman, earned accolades as the National District champion at his weight class two weeks ago.

Smith said Jacobson hurt his shoulder during a fall when Smith moved ahead 2-0 in that second period. He felt particularly bad for his opponent because the two have been acquaintances since their youth and have practiced and competed against one another over the years.

“It’s hard to go against someone you know,” said Smith.

Smith made it to the finals by winning matches over McLean’s Nick Echeverria (first period pin), Annandale’s Rawand Shamdin (first period pin), and Madison’s Robert Dooley, 3-1.

Robinson’s Dallas Smith, in the 112 finals, defeated Westfield’s Brett Campbell, 5-2. The match was scoreless after one period before Campbell, with 40 seconds remaining in the second period, earned two points at the edge of the mat with a reversal to go ahead 2-0. But early in the third period, Smith turned his opponent over and earned five points to take control of the match and ultimately earn the win.

It was the second straight region crown for Smith (30-5), who a year ago reached the state finals.

Two weeks ago in the Concorde District finals, Smith lost to Campbell, 4-1.

“I lost to him one time [in five meetings this year] – at the district finals,” said Smith, of rival Campbell. “I had to get my head together [for the region finals meeting]. I thought about [the district finals loss] every minute this week and didn’t want to talk about it.”

Of the region title match win, Smith said, “The match didn’t go the way I thought it would. I didn’t think I’d get a five-point throw [sequence]. I knew I was going to win after that.”

Smith, who made it to the finals with wins over Marshall’s James Cusack (first period pin), Annandale’s Jon Le (second period pin), and Oakton’s Eddie Gerow (first period pin), is looking forward to states.

“I have to work even harder this week and hope to be at the first place podium [at states],” he said.

Robinson’s Sodergren (34-11), a freshman, won his 103 finals match in close fashion, 4-3, over South County freshman Hunter Manley (44-6). Sodergren earned a two-point takedown early in the first period to go ahead 2-0.

Manley got escape points early in the second and early in the third period as well to tie the match at 2-2. But within the final minute of the match, Sodergren, from the ground, earned a two-point takedown to go up 4-2. Manley closed within 4-3 and nearly scored in the final seconds but Sodergren held on to gain the championship win.

“It was a close match,” said Sodergren, who won the Concorde District championship two weeks ago. “I just tried to keep going and eventually came out on top. He’s a little lankier than me and strong, and he kept pushing.”

Sodergren, in his road to the finals, defeated South Lakes’ Kevin Argueta (15-0, technical fall), Mount Vernon’s Eriq Dahlum, 6-2, and West Potomac’s Ian Thompson (first period pin).

Two other Robinson wrestlers made it to the region finals before finishing second. Zak Depasquale (33-10), at the 145 finals, lost to unbeaten Ryan Forrest of South Lakes, 10-1 (major decision). Forrest, the Liberty District champion, improved to 45-0. Depasquale had reached the finals with wins over West Springfield’s David Branson (first period pin), Washington-Lee’s Jared Deiner (13-1, major decision), and Stone Bridge’s Pat Taylor, 6-0.

Also making it to the finals for Robinson was Santiago Valdez at 130 weight class. The junior (37-8) made it to the championship match with wins over Lake Braddock’s Sean Haskett (second period pin), McLean’s Andy Chung (second period pin), and Hayfield’s Nathan Coburn, 5-4. In the finals, Valdez lost to unbeaten junior Henry Majano (40-0 record) of Wakefield High by a close 3-2 decision. Majano led 2-0 after one period and 2-1 going into the third. Early in the final period, Majano went ahead 3-1 with an escape point. Late in the match, Valdez got within 3-2 with an escape point in the closing seconds.

Robinson wrestlers Tim Fitzpatrick (171) and Shon Tron (140) both earned fifth place medals.

Jake Smith, Robinson’s 119 champion, said he and his teammates were thrilled to win the region title over Westfield. But the upcoming states are what Robinson has really been looking forward to.

“Our team has always been strong and we have a good rival with Westfield,” said Smith. “But winning the region really means nothing. We have our eyes on states. That’s really all that matters. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t win the state title.”