Quince Orchard High School wrestling coach Rob Wolf said he likes to break the lengthy winter down into three distinct seasons. The first two—during which the Cougars hone their techniques and pick up as much match experience as possible—serve to ensure they’re primed to put forth their best performances during the final, most important stretch: championship season. This year’s postseason kicks off with the 57th Annual Montgomery County Public Schools wrestling tournament, scheduled for Feb. 14-15 at Gaithersburg High.
As wrestlers’ focus over the next two weeks shifts to more individualized goals and qualifying for the season-ending state meet slated for March 1-2, training sessions gear more toward conditioning and technique drilling than live wrestling, Wolf said. The goal is to solidify muscle memory, make sure everyone is in top shape and can make their respective weights, while reducing the risk for injury.
Class 4A West Region tournament qualification is based on a point system. Wrestlers receive two points for every dual match win and one point for every tournament match victory—with bonus points for those who place. Returning regional and state tournament qualifiers carry over some bonus points as well, Wolf said.
The top eight wrestlers following the county championship automatically qualify for the region meet, scheduled for Feb. 22-23. Athletes who don’t rank in the top eight per their point totals can still advance to the region meet by placing in the top 25 percent—top six—at the county meet.
If all goes according to plan, Quince Orchard could have six student-athletes in legitimate contention for top performances at the state meet. Leading the way is Jose Echeona (138 pounds), who finished fourth at states a year ago and enters the county championship with a 32-5 record (as of Feb. 11). With 131 career wins, he’s two victories away from moving into second place on the program’s all-time list.
Classmates Carlos Guerrero (113 pounds, 18-5) and Jay Bollinger (160, 26-6) and juniors Rico Cornejo (126, 28-9), who was a match away from state qualification last winter, NCAA Division I football recruit Marquez Cooper (182, 27-4) and Ryan Jones (195, 23-3), who also finished fourth at the season-ending tournament last year, all have the potential to place well at states, Wolf said.
Bollinger is a methodical wrestler who rarely commits an error, Wolf said, instead waiting for and pouncing on his opponents’ mistakes. Bollinger missed last postseason with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Wolf said he’s excited to see the cerebral wrestler have the opportunity to perform on the big stage.
Quince Orchard’s two female wrestlers—sophomore Rebecca Soto and junior Sarah Mesri—both placed at the second annual Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Girls Invitational on Feb. 2. Soto was runner-up in the 106-pound division and Mesri took fourth at 161 pounds.
Though sophomores Roman Mychajliw (132) and Michael Monkevic (145), juniors Konstantine Kahadze (152) and Thomas DeCastro (220) and senior Ronnell Foreman (152) will have to qualify for states through their county tournament performances, Wolf said they’re all capable of doing so.
At this point in the season, there are no easy wins and no one athlete can be taken for granted, Wolf said. The Cougars realize that no one, no matter their record or regular season results, is immune to being upset by a lower seeded opponent.
Quince Orchard’s wrestlers are physically ready, but championship season success is largely predicated on mental strength and laser focus.
“You can’t look at your seed or at who you’re wrestling against and try to figure out when you win this match, who’s up next,” Wolf said. “You have to stay focused and take each match, each period, one at a time. You start thinking beyond that, and that’s when upsets happen. And you see them every year.”