Wrestler of the Year: Rudy Rueda, DeMatha
The senior 152-pounder became only the second wrestler in DeMatha’s storied history to win four straight National Preps titles, and now he adds Star/Gazette Wrestler of the Year to his resume. Rueda won 170 of 185 career matches,‘‘He’s a leader by example, and he’s probably gotten better each year,” said 25-year DeMatha coach Dick Messier. ‘‘He had a couple of problems this season where he may have lost his focus. But he hung in there when a lot of others might have just packed it in. He was so eager to excel.” Rueda won nine tournament titles this season, bouncing back and forth from 145 to 152. Ranked fourth in the country by USA Wrestling and No. 1 in the state, Rueda (44-4 this season) has attracted interest from Purdue, Penn State, North Carolina and North Carolina State.
Coach of the Year: Ed Ladd, Northwestern
Northwestern surprised county opponents by winning its first County 4A league title since 1982 and just its second in 50 years. Ladd lost six of his starters to graduation and only had three experienced wrestlers returning this winter. ‘‘When the season started, I thought we had an outside chance, and I mean a real outside chance, to get 10 wins,” said Ladd. ‘‘That’s what I was shooting for. I got the kids to work hard. The kids put in the work, and that made my job easier.” The Wildcats defeated Oxon Hill, Bowie, Parkdale and Roosevelt in a span of four days during the final week of the season to clinch the league crown and finished at 11-2 and 8-0 in the league.
Steve Sargent, freshman, DeMatha (103) — Following the footsteps of many spotlight performers from the same practice room, Sargent should only improve over the next three seasons. He went 50-9 in his debut run with the Stags. He captured titles at the WCAC, Arundel and Pallotti Duals, along with a Maryland Independent state championship. Sargent also was the runner-up at Saint Albans and took fourth in his first attempt at the National Preps. He is ranked No. 2 in the state.
Jovan Jackson, senior, Northwestern (112) — In his first action after missing his entire junior campaign with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Jackson rebounded this winter by winning the county championship and earning a spot in the 4A/3A South Regionals. He won 26 of 33 matches and was a key element in helping the Wildcats win the County 4A league crown for the first time in 22 years.
Bryan Sanders, senior, DeMatha (119) — With 99 wins over his final two seasons, Sanders was one of many reasons the Stags were ranked No. 2 in the state as a team. Sanders won at Berkley Springs, Arundel and Saint Albans this winter. He also claimed crowns at the WCAC and the Gilman and Pallotti Duals, was runner-up at the state tournament and capped off his career with a seventh-place showing at the National Preps. He will attend Manchester College in Indiana in the fall.
Mike Rowe, junior, DeMatha (125) — Rowe went 60-2 this season and has lost just six times in 169 matches in his three seasons. He is a three-time champion at the National Preps, the states, Saint Albans and Arundel after winning all four events again this season, and was also the top finisher at the Maryland Catholics. His lone setbacks this season came at the WCAC, where he was disqualified for being too aggressive, and at the prestigious Beat of the East Tournament, where he lost by a decision in the final seconds. Rowe is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Wrestling and also No. 1 in the state.
Mike Akinnuoye, senior, DuVal (130) — A county champion as a sophomore before missing much of last season for personal reasons, Akinnuoye made the most of his return to the mat, going 26-5 and winning the consolation championship at his first 2A/1A state tournament. He dominated the county tournament last month for his second title in the event and was runner-up by a one-point decision at the 2A/1A South Regionals. Aggressive on takedowns, Akinnuoye has received interest from Delaware State.
Ryan Savoy, senior, Gwynn Park (135) — After winning the county title in decisive fashion, Savoy went on to win two matches at the 4A/3A South Regionals, finishing one spot away from earning a berth in the state tournament. At 23-7 overall and with just one loss in team dual matches, he was one of the reasons why the Yellow Jackets won the County 3A/2A league crown for the second straight season and the county tournament for the first time in school history.
Robert Michels, junior, Grace Brethren (140) — Michels compiled a 38-19 record and was just one win away from placing at both the National Preps and state tournament. He captured titles at the Grace Brethren-hosted Invitational and Eagle International, and also the Pallotti Duals, while taking fourth-place honors at the Saint Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey and the Mark Males Invite in Pennsylvania and seventh at Saint Albans. Michels will be one of three returning seniors next season on a Grace Brethren team manned entirely by underclassmen this season.
Alfred Ngauja, senior, Bladensburg (145) — After dominating the county tournament with three decisive victories, two by fall, Ngauja went on to win the 4A/3A South Region consolation crown. He then earned two more wins at the states. It was his first visit to the state tournament. Navy-bound on a football scholarship, Ngauja finished this season with a 23-7 record.
Mory Keita, senior, Bladensburg; and Scott Miller, sophomore, DeMatha (160) — In a joint honor, both 160-pounders enjoyed improved performances this season. Keita (28-6) won at Bowie and Parkdale en route to seizing his first county crown. He later won the consolation title at the 4A/3A South Regionals and placed fifth at the states, where he lost his only match a season earlier. At 42-16, Miller won 17 more matches this season than last, along the way winning the WCAC, Arundel and both the Pallotti and Gilman Duals.
Mike McFadden, senior, Bowie (171) — Ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 1 in the 4A/3A for much of the season, McFadden settled for a consolation championship at the state tournament for the second time in as many opportunities. McFadden finished with a 36-1 record this season, missing out on a perfect slate by two points in the state semifinals. McFadden, who has options to wrestle at the next level, successfully defended his county crown and reversed his runner-up decision from the 4A/3A South Regionals. In the regional win, he defeated Northern’s Randy Oates, who went on to win the state title.
Gary Stewart, senior, DeMatha (189) — He was 52-3 last season and 54-4 in his final run with the Stags, finishing as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state in his division. Stewart successfully defended his titles at the WCAC, the state private schools event and the Saint Albans tournament. He won the consolation crown at the National Preps, his best finish there, and closed out his high school career with a 180-25 record. Stewart has attracted interest from Maryland, Virginia Military Institute, North Carolina and others.
Zak Adomanis, junior, Bowie (215) — For much of the season, Adomanis was ranked No. 1 in the state and only a pair of losses by decisions at the 4A/3A state tournament dropped him out of that spot and into the fourth spot. He won his first 32 matches of the campaign and has won 60 matches over his first two full varsity seasons with the Bulldogs. He defended his county title this season down a weight class from 275 and improved from runner-up to champion at the 4A/3A South Regionals. His season ended with a fourth-place showing at the state tournament.
Jason Best, senior, Gwynn Park (275) — Clearly the dominant heavyweight in the county, Best won titles at Bowie, Northern and also the county tournament. He was the runner-up in overtime at the 4A/3A South Regionals and capped off his career with a sixth-place effort at the states, where he fought his last two matches with an injured right shoulder. With a 24-5 record, Best was ranked No. 6 in the 4A/3A state rankings. He will play football this fall at Prairie View A&M.
103: Chris Willig, Bowie; Jamerral Talley, Gwynn Park; 112: Jon Hunt, Roosevelt; 119: Delonte Millings, Gwynn Park; 125: Michael Bressler, Grace Brethren; 130: Dwayne Littlejohn, Flowers; Phil Tacconelli, Roosevelt; 135: Byron McClure, Friendly; Drew Pappas, Grace Brethren; 140: Lancei Keita, Bladensburg; Martel Lucas, Oxon Hill; 145: Sean Perry, Northwestern; Aaron Gaskins, Parkdale; 152: Earl Lee, Oxon Hill; Julian Summerville, Gwynn Park; Daniel Gonzalez, Laurel; 160: Raymond Metzger, Roosevelt; Omar Crawford, Largo; 171: Jerome Owens, Flowers; Freddie Lewis, Oxon Hill; 189: TimJennings, Pallotti; Raymond Saunders, Oxon Hill; 215: Ken Jefferson, DeMatha; 275: Oliver McLeod, Roosevelt; Erik Salenieks, Laurel.