After Gilman's regular season concludes Jan. 30 at McDonogh, the Greyhounds will immediately turn their attention to a trio of postseason tournaments.
The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championships (Feb. 8-9), the Maryland Private Schools State Tournament (Feb. 15-16) and National Preps (Feb. 22-23) are the high-profile events the wrestlers have been working toward all season.
"It's an exciting time," Gilman second-year coach Bryn Holmes said. "We want our kids to finish strong and end the year on a positive note. I love wrestling at the end of the year. It's so much fun for our guys to get a shot at guys they lost to earlier in the season."
The prestigious 30th annual Haswell M. Franklin Gilman Duals on Jan. 26 helped the Greyhounds prepare for the upcoming events by putting their best effort against teams from five states, including Pennsylvania's Wyoming Seminary, which is ranked second nationally by natprepwrestling.com.
Gilman senior Jack King (113 pounds) had the best tournament for the hosts, edging St. Benedicts's Tyler Hayes, 2-1, and beating Germantown Academy's Barrett Connor, 3-1.
Overall, Gilman finished seventh out of eight teams.
"We want the kids to see the top level competition so they know where they want to be at the end of the season, and the younger kids know where they want to be by the time they graduate," Gilman assistant coach Henry Franklin said. "We brought the best competition to Baltimore and Gilman School."
Holmes said the underclassmen in the starting lineup — freshmen Matt Siems (106) and Ben Gushue (126) and sophomores Ryan Khim (126), Gram Davis (132), Luke Franklin (182) and Jahee Jackson (285) — need to get all the mat time possible to prepare for what's ahead.
Regardless of how the freshmen and sophomores do in the upcoming tournaments, they have had a positive impact on the program.
"I love the energy they bring," said Holmes, whose team beat Mount St. Joseph in early January for time since 2000. "The young kids are eating up the sport. The more younger guys we can get out there, the better off we will be. And they are pushing the older guys to wrestle their best matches.
Of the six underclassmen, Siems (14-4) is having the best season.
"He is just wresting smart," Holmes said. "He doesn't make bad decisions. The biggest thing with wrestling is experience, and he has some outside experience (with the North Baltimore Wrestling Club)."
Siems hopes he can duplicate the success some of his teammates have had in the postseason.
Junior Garrett Pfeifer finished fifth in the MIAAs and seventh in states last year at 182 while going 23-9. He moved down to 170 this season and is 22-9.
He placed fourth in the Ray Oliver Invitational in December.
"He is definitely in better shape this year," Holmes said. "That makes a big difference."
King has made some strides, too, placing fourth in the Ray Oliver and compiling a 23-7 mark.
"He is really aggressive and has been a product of just hard work," Holmes said. "He has a constant motor. He has been wrestling very tough for the last three years and its all coming together right now for him as a senior for him."
Gilman has been hampered by the loss of two standouts, seniors Connor Webb (195, knee) and Shane Cockerille (220, mononucleosis).
Webb, who finished third in the MIAAs and fourth in the states last year, is out for the season while Cockerille will return to the lineup on Feb. 1.
"They are two of the better 195 and 220 pounders around," Franklin said. "They have a big impact in dual meets and tournaments because they are guys who place high."
Cockerille, who will play football at the University of Maryland in the fall, has been out since mid-December. He's Gilman's best wrestler, having won the MIAAs last year and the Ray Oliver this season.
"He is one of those guys we rely on for team points and having him back will help a lot," Holmes said. "We are going to take it day by day, and see how he is feeling. He is in good spirits. He was down and out for a long time."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun