Wrestlers double up on state titles with duals victory

MHS wrestlers hold up their sign for victory after capturing their second straight state title.

By Miles Bradford, Round Table reporter

For the second year in a row, the Middletown High School wrestling team captured a state championship at the 1A/2A Wrestling State Duals at North Point High School in Waldorf on Feb. 11.

After their victory, the wrestlers gathered their spoils of war as the team was showered with medals and congratulations. The wrestlers lined up and smiled for pictures, each with the signature pose, “Hold up the two,” in which wrestlers held up two fingers representing victory, or two points during a match.

On the ride back, the team stopped the charter bus to grab some food and  spent some time talking about the way things had gone. Then, on the final stretch into Middletown, the local fire company escorted the team to the school as each wrestler joined in to sing, “We Are The Champions” by Queen.

It was the climax of a journey in which four teams competed for the title. All had dreams of success and the intent of leaving with a trophy, state recognition, plaques, and medals, but only one team could come out on top.

Middletown’s success against Sparrows Point in the State Duals means the Knights are, for the first time, back-to-back champions in wrestling. This historical achievement sparked a sense of pride in the MHS wrestling team and its supporters and coaches.

The wrestlers attributed their success to a great week of preparation leading into the championship.

“We stayed focused, had a great week of practice, and were excited to be there in the first match,” said MHS senior Adam Bain. “ We knew we had a target on our back, which motivated us to a higher level of wrestling.”

When did the team decide it was going to win?

MHS senior Tyler Clemmer answered with a question of his own: “You mean, when did the season start?”

MHS sophomore Noah Grossnickle added that “last year, when we won the first time, that’s when we realized our goal.”

The team has prepared in many ways to reach its goal, on and off the mat, from last year up to the warm-up right before the first match on the day of the tournament, and it paid off.

MHS freshman Jeremy Farran had three words defining the reason for Middletown’s victory: “Practice, teamwork, faith,” he said.

The team likes to push themselves at every practice, showing a willingness to “empty the tank,” as the coaches like to put it.

“I always want to get better and keep practicing,” Jeremy said. “So does the team.”

MHS freshman Josh Brull said, “I’ll work hard and try my hardest to help others around me. I think we wrestled well, we showed good sportsmanship, and we had fun.”

MHS freshman David Rapp said, “My next step is to do well and hopefully win counties. I hope the team does well in individual states.”

During the meet, each wrestler was there to support one another.

Each wrestler who walks into the wrestling room and gives his or her best on the mat deserves the respect from the rest of the wrestlers, and the wrestlers show it through mutual support.

Head coach Jim Schartner likes to say at practices and during matches, “We don’t give up, we don’t give out, we don’t give in.”

After the meet, Schartner said, “I think we showed [pride] by sticking together as a team. We hung together as a team. Everyone, 32 all together, came to fight for Middletown. Gabe Caldwell, who was transferred this year, came back to support them, too.”

MHS sophomore Tyler Rice said that to help one another, the wrestlers “gave [each other] advice and motivated them; told them which moves to use.” This is very helpful to some wrestlers on the mat, because those that are watching can often get a better view of what moves or counters could be employed.

Earlier in the season, MHS Principal Lee Jeffrey noted the Knights’ bond. “I think one of the wrestling team’s greatest strengths is that they stick together and support eachother,” she said.

For most serious wrestlers, the sport doesn’t stop at the end of the season; practice goes into the off-season. However, as MHS senior Danny Bertoni said, “This is the last time we wrestle as a family – last time we wrestle together.”

Rapp said he plans to practice over the rest of the year and come back next year to keep the success going, even if it is without some of the familiar faces from this season.

With “We Are The Champions” still ringing in their heads, the wrestlers are keeping up the great effort, and while some will work towards county championships, individual championships, and college wrestling, all will remember that day of triumph.