Reston The South Lakes High wrestling team put together its best postseason showing in recent memory when the Seahawks earned a third place team finish at last Saturday’s Liberty District Championships. The two-day event (Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3-4) took place at Langley High School.
The accomplishment of a third place showing was a watershed moment for a Seahawks’ program which has made an almost complete turnaround during head coach Bruce Hall’s five years in charge of the program. During his first year as head coach (2006-’07 season) South Lakes had just four fulltime varsity wrestlers.
But in each season since the Seahawks have increased roster size and gotten better and better. Last year, South Lakes went an outstanding 19-6 in regular season dual meets before a disappointing showing at districts partially tarnished an otherwise good season. This year, the Seahawks did not have as good a dual meet record as a year ago, but they still finished over the .500 mark in dual matches and began the postseason with a breakthrough showing at last weekend’s districts.
“This year we had a winning record but not a great record,” said Hall. “We had injuries. But at the district tournament, almost everyone was back.”
South Lakes scored 144 team points at districts to garner the third place position, behind champion Langley (216.60) and second place Marshall (192).
Those teams behind South Lakes were fourth place Fairfax (138.50), fifth place Madison (134.50), sixth place Jefferson (114), seventh place Stone Bridge (100), and eighth place McLean (93).
SOUTH LAKES had two individual champions with the Forrest brothers capturing titles – Ryan at the 160 weight class and Josh at 170.
Ryan, a senior who won his fourth career district title, defeated Stone Bridge’s Josh Toal by major decision, 21-9, in the 160 championship match. Forrest, who is the lone South Lakes wrestler in program history to win four district crowns, is perhaps the favorite to win his weight class at regionals this weekend.
“He looked good,” said Hall, of Forrest’s showing at districts. “There are some things he can work on this week [in preparation for regionals]. On a scale of 10, he’s probably [wrestling at] an eight or nine right now. The tough kids [in his weight class at regionals] are from South County and Robinson.”
Hall went on to say Forrest’s ultimate postseason competition could come at the upcoming state tournament in a few weeks if he gets a chance to wrestle a three-time state champion from Hopewell High (Central Region).
Ryan’s brother, Josh, won his 170 district finals match over Langley’s Gabe O’Neal by a first period pin.
Josh, who finished third at districts last year at 130 weight class, missed about two months of this season due to a concussion. Since his return, Hall has brought Forrest along slowly. The wrestler has been using Everlast boxer head gear, with the backing and permission of the local Referee Association, in order to better protect his head and help prevent any recurring concussion issues.
Josh Forrest is much physically bigger this year than a year ago. He put together an outstanding district tournament showing.
“He’s gotten bigger and he and Ryan are now about the same size,” said Hall. “Josh is a stud.”
South Lakes earned one second place finish at districts – that coming from heavyweight Alex Smurda, who reached the finals before losing to Marshall’s Matt Crawford on a second period pin.
Two South Lakes wrestlers – Mike Shoebottom (195) and Devon Johnson (138) – gained third place finishes on Saturday. Shoebottom won his consolation match for third place over McLean’s Noah Cherry. Johnson won his consolation finals match over Connor Legan of Stone Bridge.
Shoebottom, who became eligible to wrestle on Feb. 1, wrestled at a heavier weight class than he is used to but still came away with an impressive showing. Meanwhile, Johnson, a senior and a First Team All-District defensive back on the football field last fall, concluded his district wrestling career with a solid district tournament outing.
South Lakes had two other wrestlers qualify for this weekend’s regionals in Eric Dismuke (182) and Chris Maginniss (145), who both finished fourth in their respective weight classes.
Dismuke, who wrestled at 170 weight class all season, moved up to 182 at districts.
Seahawks missing region bids but earning top six medals at districts were: Abdul Raufi (fifth place at 113 class), Terry Petersen (sixth at 120), Matt Kelly (sixth at 126), Tim Kim (sixth at 152), and senior Owen Wolfe (sixth at 220).
So, in all, 12 South Lakes wrestlers earned top six medals with seven of them qualifying for regionals.
One disappointment at districts for South Lakes was junior Kevin Argueta (106 weight class) not being allowed to compete at districts due to officials’ decision for medical reasons. Argueta went 24-7 this season and, according to Hall, would have been the wrestler to beat at districts in his weight class.
Hall said Argueta handled his misfortune at districts like a champ.
“We probably would have finished second [in the team standings] if Kevin had been there,” said Hall. “The kid who won the tournament [at 106] from Marshall [Christian Valencia] was pinned by Kevin this season. Kevin could have very well been the 106 pound champion this season. The good news is that he is a junior and will be back next year. He’s a great kid and took it well. He helped me during the entire tournament.”
The 144 team points by South Lakes at districts was a team record.
South Lakes’ wrestling future beyond this season looks bright as just four Seahawks will be lost to graduation this spring, meaning a majority of team members will likely be back next school year.