Lansdowne's second-year wrestling coach George Dunn won't measure his tightly knit squad by team victories this season. Instead, he will focus on individual accomplishments and possible postseason achievements.
Dunn knew he was losing regional qualifiers Justin Angellotti and Kyle Beard to graduation after last season, but the coach thought he would return quality grapplers Russell Cunningham and Romario Orellano to this year's team.
But Cunningham broke his hand during football season and Orellano suffered four concussions.
"Thinking they are going to come back and then to find out they are not going to be cleared for the whole season is brutal," said Dunn, whose squad must forfeit four weight classes in each match.
The coach did get a pleasant surprise when senior Desmond Gordon transferred from Patterson High on Sept. 10.
"He's experienced, knowledgeable about technique and he has a good mat presence," said Dunn, noting he will eventually wrestle at 220 after starting the season against Parkville at heavyweight and earning a first-period pin in the Vikings' 48-24 loss.
"I was just stalking him all day and I went in for a tie and I faked left and I ducked under right and he wasn't going for the spin, so I back-tripped him and he landed on his back and I got the pin," Gordon said.
Gordon's pin was one of three Viking pins in the opener.
Junior Mauricio Franco earned a first-period pin at 182 pounds.
Franco was fourth in the Baltimore County junior varsity wrestling championships in his first season of wrestling.
"We're looking for him to do something for us this year," Dunn said. "Mauricio attacks, attacks, attacks and there is no quit in him. He's a little rough around the edges, but he's a diamond in the rough."
Freshman Ronnie Bryant (138) also had a pin against Parkville and freshman Brandon Fallon won by forfeit.
Both have junior league experience and could make an impact in the postseason along with Franco and Gordon.
"We are forfeiting a lot of matches, but if we lose a dual meet, it doesn't matter because we are trying to go as individuals to regionals and states," Franco said.
Injuries and a low turnout has also helped the Vikings become a close-knit group.
"We don't really call it a team, we call it a family," Franco said. "We all get along with each other and we help each other every day."
Gordon tries to practice what his coach preaches every day.
"Coach Dunn told us we should get a half step better every day," Gordon said. "Since I'm a senior this is probably going to be the last year I'm going to see a wrestling mat, so right now in my eyes I see the state championships in sight so all I have to do it reach up and grab it."
Senior John Horn also hopes to wrestle well in the postseason, after going 5-5 last season when he was sidetracked by a shoulder injury.
"My goal is to go to states since this is my last year," said Horn, who missed the season opener with a concussion.
Juan Ochoa (113) and Justin Smith (170) are the only other senior starters on a squad that also includes juniors Kyle Wojcinski (152) and Darwin Interiano (160) and freshman Jasmine Mumphord (120).
Mumphord is the first girl Dunn has coached, having been the head coach at Division III Thiel College and an assistant at North Alleghany High (Pa.).
"She is tough as nails," said Dunn, noting she missed the opener with a knee injury.
In Lansdowne's second match of the season, they fell at Dulaney 72-12.
Franco and Ochoa both won their matches with pins.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun