The Parkdale High School wrestling team cannot be taken lightly anymore.
The Panthers are coming off a banner year in which they went undefeated in the dual meet regular season, won the county championship and hosted the 4A/3A South Region Dual Meet Championship.
A mix of youth and experience helped Parkdale to unprecedented heights under coach Adam Forschner, but now, the element of surprise is gone. Teams know what Parkdale has, but so do the Panthers.
“I think we can achieve more than we did last year,” said Terry Nance (195 pounds). “We’re getting better. Other teams look at us as a good team. They respect us now.”
For a long time, Eleanor Roosevelt had been the class of Prince George’s County wrestling with schools such as Charles H. Flowers, DuVal, Bowie and Gwynn Park maintaining success. This year, however, riding the momentum from last season, Forschner is shooting for even bigger goals than a county title, which the Panthers won last year by one point.
“We did really well in regional duals, but I want to go farther,” he said. “These guys are hungry.
“I’m looking for more than just the county. People are gunning for us now. No more Parkdale surprising people. People know who we are now.”
Forschner said his roster currently has 30 grapplers on it, a much larger team than last season. And a majority of those 30 have been working tirelessly throughout the offseason to maintain their fitness.
Forschner said he has brought wrestlers to tournaments across the region — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia. Top wrestlers from competing schools tag along with his own grapplers to gain experience.
“I’m exhausted because I haven’t stopped yet,” said Forschner, who used to help coach the football team in the fall, but didn’t this year. “I just take them to the places. I don’t coach them. I haven’t stopped coming to open mats.
“I know this is what it takes. I’m excited about it. It took a long time for them to understand [the work that needs to go into the offseason].”
One of the wrestlers who benefitted directly from the offseason regiment is Michael Perdomo, who competes at 120 pounds.
“We’re working hard to try and do better than last year and to try to get everybody in shape to succeed,” Perdomo said. “The offseason was very helpful because I was able to learn more moves and try them out in the tournaments.”
Perhaps nobody feels the energy of a winning program more than Parkdale’s wrestlers. Nance said that his classmates have come up to him in the hallways at Parkdale and ask when they’ll have their next match. He said that used to happen at times, but now he’s fielding questions every day.
“Now people are going to see Parkdale and they’re going to actually recognize us,” said Ray Jones (160 pounds). “It’s more of a responsibility because you’ve got to live up to it and work hard to give people a challenge.”
There certainly will be a challenge this year as Forschner has created a far more difficult schedule for his squad than last season. So although hopes of going undefeated in the regular season again might not be as realistic as they were in 2011-12, Forschner realizes the benefit of facing teams like Damascus, Thomas Stone and Baltimore Poly Tech.
Said Forschner: “I’m trying to get them ready for better competition.”