Towson senior wrestler tries to ignore pain in state tournament

During the state tournament in College Park on March 2, Towson High's Liam St. John felt constant pain in both of his feet. The senior's right wrist hurt, too.

St. John strained both feet about three weeks ago on a 20-mile run and his wrist still aches from a fracture earlier in the season.

But he said his feet bothered him the most, even after resting as much as possible in the week leading up to the final.

"All day I was trying to be a little quicker, but all day my feet hurt," said St. John, who didn't miss any time because of the wrist injury.

Despite his pain, St. John placed sixth at 138 pounds after being decked by Urbana's Nick Frank in 2:18 in the consolation final. The Maryland State Wrestling Association ranked Frank seventh in the state among its top-25 wrestlers; St. John was not ranked.

Towson coach Phil Simmonds had praise for St. John.

"He is special," Simmonds said. "There are only a select few that could push through those injuries and still (place). He has the mental and physical toughness to do it. He just put the pain out of his mind."

Frank went ahead, 5-0, on a takedown and back points before he pinned St. John, who finished second in both the county and region.

"He just got on top of me, got locked in and I couldn't get out," St. John said.

St. John, who finished 34-9, also lost to Frank in the regional final, 10-2. St. John finished fourth in the region as a junior and fifth in the county while going 30-15.

St. John split his sophomore campaign between the varsity and junior varsity.

"He has come a long way in four years," Simmonds said. "He never wrestled before he came to Towson. He put in the extra time in the offseason and did all the right things. He was scrappy. He just went after the guy, no matter how big he was."

St. John's Towson classmate Nathan Nenortas, a county and region runner-up, went 1-2 in the stat meet, ending his senior campaign at 31-9.

Dulaney junior Dylan Ruiz (120) posted the highest finish for the Lions, placing fourth in the state after being pinned in the consolation final by Arundel's Tanner Chaplain (31-6) in 2:55.

Ruiz, who is in only his third year of wrestling and has competed in mixed martial arts, placed third in the county and region this winter.

"I could have done better, but I am definitely happy that I placed," Ruiz said of state meet, where he lost in a semifinal, 1-0, to eventual champion Marty Margolis, of LaPlata. "My freshman year I went to states and I went 0-2. I didn't even go to states last year."

Dulaney coach Desi McNelis said Ruiz peaked for the postseason.

"He really came on strong and he looked great in the state tournament until that last takedown," the coach said. "He really showed what he could do. It finally clicked."

Duaney junior Jacob Asher, a county and region champion at 145 and ranked seventh in the state, didn't place as high McNelis had hoped.

Asher lost to South River's Colin Alley, 5-4, in the first round, then beat Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Justin Elwell, 5-1, before being eliminated by Meade's Travis Chidebe, 5-3.

Both defeats came to wresters with top-12 rankings.

"I still think he can wrestle with anybody," McNelis said. "I think he showed that in his two losses. They were both in overtime."

Dulaney sophomore Sean Hoffman (152, 33-11), who also qualified for the state meet, dropped both of his decisions.

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