In the immediate aftermath of a memorable moment earlier this season, Oakdale High School senior Ryan Simonica whipped out his phone.
Simonica, Oakdale’s heavyweight on that historic day, snapped picture after picture as the Bears celebrated.
And why not? It’s not often one has the opportunity to document history that’s seven years in the making.
The scoreboard on that momentous day for Oakdale’s budding wrestling program: Oakdale 36, Urbana 34. And with it, so ended the Hawks’ dominant winning streak against Frederick County opponents that dated back to the 2006-07 season.
It was Simonica’s match against Nick Keller, in fact, that capped a run of six out of seven victories for the Bears against Urbana as Oakdale came from behind in dramatic fashion to win. Simonica, who attended Gov. Thomas Johnson his freshman year, is a captain on the team and part of the first graduating class in Oakdale history.
“Coming in, we had a lot of focus and a lot of anticipation to end that streak,” Simonica said. “A lot of preparation, that’s all we were thinking about was to find a way to win.”
While the Bears’ seminal moment this season is undoubtedly the win against Urbana, the buzz surrounding the 2012-13 campaign began when former Tuscarora coach T.J. Salb shifted to Oakdale and joined his former Damascus High School teammate, William Swaney, as co-coaches at Oakdale.
“In order to have this significant win over them in three years is pretty impressive on so many different levels, because of the proximities of the schools and the friendships the kids still have with people going to school over there,” Salb said. “It’s very emotional for them.”
Swaney acknowledged the importance of the Urbana victory, which featured key wins by Josh and Jonah Loveless as well as Charles Davis and Michael Adams, but said the team’s goals for the season remain loftier than one significant dual meet victory.
“They believe in themselves now,” Swaney said. “Before, when we first were starting the program, they heard it. In years past, we talked about us getting better, but now, after accomplishing a feat like that, they believe it. That helps our confidence and our team so much.”
Both Salb and Swaney learned what it took to build a program during their years at Damascus, which has nearly perfected the winning formula. Now, the co-coaches have parlayed their knowledge into a budding program and toppled one of the county powers in a mere three seasons.
“We came from a program that has tradition and roots and success and we saw what it takes to build that and maintain it,” Salb said. “Coach Swaney, I don’t think he’s slept the last two years building this program. We try to use the same philosophies and mindset to establish and maintain a program. We don’t have any egos or pretentions about what we do well. We’ve been friends before we coached and we want the kids to be successful.”
While Swaney and Salb share a deep-rooted connection, so do Urbana coach Ben Arneson and Swaney. The pair attended middle school together, played on the same youth football and wrestling teams and were roommates on Maryland’s national wrestling team. That only made the victory even sweeter for Swaney.
“We have a bunch of kids that we started off with from three different schools,” he said. “They kind of found themselves an identity in terms of the boys working together and everybody doing their job. And when it happens, great things can occur.”
The Bears currently are 5-0 in dual meets this season and finished third at the Bear Cave Brawl and fourth at the Damascus Tournament. With a full roster, the Bears are hopeful even better things remain on the horizon for a program that’s performing well beyond its age.
As for winning a championship as a member of the first senior class in school history?
“I don’t think I could figure out the words for that,” Simonica said. “That would be incredible to do something like that. And I think with the way we’re working we could have the potential to do it.”