Earlier in January, Paint Branch High School wrestling coach Rich Smith brought his team to the Hub Cup tournament at North Hagerstown High School.
The event is widely regarded as one of the better in-season competitions in the state, so he had an inkling that his Panthers wouldn’t necessarily be at the top of the pack when it was over.
And they weren’t. Paint Branch finished in 13th — the middle of the pack — and Smith wasn’t sure how his team would rebound from that experience.
“You’ve got to grin and bear it at a tournament like that,” Smith said. “If the kids wrestle hard and nobody gets injured you get an opportunity to do this. Because they could have easily tucked their heads between their legs.”
“This,” in the case to which Smith was referring, is win a well-known tournament in its own right — the Winter Blitz, hosted by Charles H. Flowers High School.
“We had a pretty nice tournament,” Smith said. “The boys did well.”
The Panthers finished in first with a team score of 236, edging two-time defending champion Parkdale by 14 points. Poolesville came in third while Flowers and Watkins Mill rounded out the top five in Saturday’s event.
While Paint Branch won the team score battle, Parkdale finished with the most first-place individuals (four) and Watkins Mill saw all three of its wrestlers who reached the finals win. For the second year in a row, Parkdale’s Michael Perdomo (132) was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler as he pinned Flowers’ Thomas Eggleston in 3 minutes and 40 seconds to capture another title.
“I think it was a great tournament,” Perdomo said. “I’m just trying to do everything I do in the room and then go out there and wrestle hard. I feel like if I do what I was taught to do, I could win every match.”
Also winning for Parkdale were Kevin Thomas (138), LK Lyles-El (182) and Macred Gbenro (195). Gberno’s match was a crowd-pleaser as he faced Flowers’ hulking Terron Paden, who profiles more like a body builder than a wrestler.
Despite Paden’s massive upper-body strength, Gberno was able to reverse a second-period throw down by Paden and stick him at the 2:53 mark, after which the crowd reacted wildly.
“I honestly thought I was going to lose,” said Gberno, who beat Paden in the first match of the season. “I know what I’m supposed to do when I’m about to get thrown and I didn’t do any of it.
I made so many mistakes in that match, but the stuff that you learn in the room, you can’t think about it when you’re on the mat, you just do it.”
Flowers coach Odist Felder was proud of a number of his wrestlers on the night — including three-time champion Francois Scarboro (126) — but said he was perhaps most pleased to see Chevelle “Deuce” Womack win at 160.
“I’m proud of him,” Felder said of the No. 4 seed. “I take him home most of the time, so we’re constantly talking strategy, moves, opponents. His victory felt real, real good.”
Crossland and Henry A. Wise were the only schools to feature a champion other than those in the top five. Crossland’s Angelo Claiborne was the only one to beat a Parkdale wrestler in the finals as he handled Ray Jones, 3-1, and Wise’s Gregory Johnson pinned Poolesville’s Noah Blaker in 3:19.
“It was great,” said Johnson, a two-time Blitz champion and 12th-year wrestler. “I was practicing hard. I was real nervous before the match, but as long as I executed my moves, I knew I was good.”
For Watkins Mill, Fabio Wuintanilla (106) and Serigne Sock (113) started the final round with wins against opponents from Northwestern and heavyweight Billy Emerson ended the night with a pin of Forestville heavyweight Khalil Proctor.
Winter Blitz Finals
at Charles H. Flowers High School
106: Fabio Wuintanilla (Watkins Mill) d. Steve Velazquez (Northwestern), 6-4
113: Serigne Sock (Watkins Mill) d. Abraam Benitez (Northwestern), 8-6
120: Luke Maher (Poolesville) d. Nolan Smith (Paint Branch), 3-0
126: Francois Scarboro (Flowers) f. Ryan Van Meers (Paint Branch), 1:10
132: Michael Perdomo (Parkdale) f. Thomas Eggleston (Flowers), 3:40
138: Kevin Thomas (Parkdale) f. David Frendich (Poolesville), 1:19
145: Mitchell Zio (Paint Branch) d. Jahi Jones (Oxon Hill), 3-2
152: Gregory Johnson (Henry A. Wise) f. Noah Blaker (Poolesville), 3:19
160: Chevelle Womack (Flowers) d. Tyrone Cheeks (Paint Branch), 7-5
170: Angelo Claiborne (Crossland) d. Ray Jones (Parkdale), 3-1
182: LK Lyles-El (Parkdale) f. Chase Garrett (Poolesville), 2:16
195: Macred Gbenro (Parkdale) f. Terron Paden (Flowers), 2:53
220: Cornell Wilson (Paint Branch) d. Joe Alpizar (Gwynn Park), 1-0
285: Billy Emerson (Watkins Mill) f. Khalil Proctor (Forestville), 3:43
1) Paint Branch, 236
2) Parkdale, 222
3) Poolesville, 188
4) Charles H. Flowers, 161.50
5) Watkins Mill, 123
6) Forestville Military Academy, 97
7) Oxon Hill, 89
8) Henry A. Wise, 81
9) Northwestern, 60
9) Albert Einstein, 60
11) DuVal, 50
12) McDonough, 47
13) Gwynn Park, 39.50
14) Potomac, 36
15) Crossland, 31
16) Largo, 20
17) Friendly, 13
18) Central, 12
19) Surrattsville, 2