No matter what, Western Tech senior Tony Simuel always found a way to contribute to one of the teams for which the three-sport standout played.
While having most of his success in wrestling, where he had 43 wins his senior year and qualified for the state tournament for a second straight season, Simuel also proved valuable for the football and lacrosse squads.
Although his 2012 football season was marred by injury when he ruptured a fluid sack behind his knee, the captain, who played outside linebacker and wide receiver as a junior, was mostly relegated to special teams.
“You would not believe how much it hurt not to play all over, but you have to take my knees out to stop me from playing,” said Simuel, who praised his coach for protecting the knee for wrestling season. “I thank him for that.”
In his senior lacrosse season, he returned to his natural position of long-stick midfield, after playing two years all over the field, including much of his junior year as goalie.
His hard work and dedication helped the Lansdowne resident earn the Arbutus Times Male Athlete of the Year award.
It was on the wrestling mat where Simuel made the greatest strides.
“He was a very special kid. You don’t see that kind of kid every year,” coach Jay Solera said.
Solera, who came to the program when Simuel was a junior, saw a unique wrestling style that did not need changing.
“He was the captain of his own ship, but he certainly did what worked for him,” Solera said. “He was very unorthodox, and I like the fact that he was unorthodox.”
Two years in a row, he qualified at 152 pounds for the state tournament at College Park, and in his senior season, he was one of a school-record seven Western Tech grapplers to qualify for the state tournament.
“Tony was a captain of the team, so some of the credit has to go to him leading the charge,” Solera said.
As a junior, Simuel upset the top-seeded wrestler in the first round of the regional tournament and earned his state tournament berth by placing second overall.
That was the proudest moment of a four-year varsity career that boasts 99 victories.
He attributes a talk from coach Solera before the regional tournament that helped turn a .500 season into a highly successful one.
Moreover, his leadership as a senior pushed Western Tech’s 2012 state champion Tejon Anthony to his second consecutive Baltimore County crown in 2013.
“We all push each other in practice and I wrestle Tony in practice all the time and we both go at it,” said Anthony (37-6), who won at 132 pounds, then watched Simuel finish as county runner-up at 152 as the Wolverines finished fifth at the county meet.
He lost to Owings Mills’ Antwan Reddick in the Baltimore County championship final, but dealt with it positively.
“He was always on the upside of things, win or lose, in five minutes, he was going to be joking,” Solera said. “He let things roll off his shoulders pretty easily.”
That was tougher during football season when he played hurt for coach Alan Lagon, who nominated Simuel for the prestigious Unsung Hero Award at the McCormick Unsung Hero banquet early last month.
“He was always willing to put himself out there,” Lagon said. “He was always one of the first players ready for practice. “He was selfless.”
Nathan Brooks, the varsity lacrosse coach for three years, noticed the same attribute when he put Simuel on varsity as a sophomore after volunteering to play backup goalie.
By the end of the season, he was starting between the pipes and continued in the role during his junior year, despite being a natural midfielder.
“To have the guts to go and stand in front of the goal showed he was a heck of an athlete,” Brooks said.
Simuel admitted he was shell-shocked at times.
“I would come home with purple blotches on my body and legs and, I think, I even cracked a rib,” he said.
After he took some time off last spring to focus on his studies, he returned to the midfield with a vengeance.
That was most evident in a 6-5 loss to Carver when Simuel sparked the team with a crunching hit.
“I said ‘Tony, go get me the ball,’ and he did and the hit was legal,” Brooks said. “He could deliver quite a blow.”
“I beat this kid to the ball and I hit him so hard he came out of his cleats,” Simuel recalled.
“He was a spark,” Brooks said. “When I put him back on the field at midfield, he took his opportunity to make up for everything he missed. He proved he could play long stick midfield.”
The physical play didn’t surprise Brooks, considering Simuel’s background.
“I love when my guys are wrestlers,” Brooks said. “I’ve enjoyed coaching him the past three years.”
In the end, that turned into his passion.
“I love all the sports, but I believe wrestling is probably my favorite because it taught me how to control myself,” he said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun