New Lansdowne High wrestling coach George Dunn is hardly a stranger to success.
The 1993 North Alleghany High (Pa.) graduate went on to wrestle at Division III Thiel College, where he earned a conference championship in 1997 and qualified for the national tournament the following year.
In 2003, he was head coach at Thiel College and earned President's Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors.
He returned as an assistant at North Alleghany High for two seasons, coaching Jake Herbert, who later was honored as the nation's top collegiate wrestler while at Northwestern University by winning the Hodge Trophy.
Herbert was also a 2009 silver medalist at the world championships.
Dunn spent two seasons as an assistant at Woodlawn High before coaching the past three as assistant to Eric Warm at Catonsville High.
At Lansdowne, he takes over for Earl Eppard and inherits a program that has been building the past several seasons.
However, after graduating three state tournament qualifiers, including Baltimore County champion Greg McCoy and county runner-up Nick Payne, Dunn will have some hurdles to cross.
That said, if his debut is any indication, the Vikings are in good hands.
On Dec. 8 at Parkville, his young squad enjoyed a 43-27 victory in which a pair of sophomores gave the rookie coach a reason for optimism.
In the 170-pound match, Lansdowne's Romario Orellano trailed Renard Vann, 6-4, midway through the third period, before the Viking rallied for a pin with 24 seconds left in the final period.
That triumph evened the match at 27-27.
Lansdowne sophomore Russell Seeney-Cunningham defeated senior Dievy Sorto, 14-3, for a 31-27 lead before freshman John Gallano earned a forfeit in the 195-pound match to stretch the advantage to an insurmountable 37-27.
First-year junior 285-pounder Anthony Serio salted the victory when he rallied from a 6-2 second period deficit to pin Kai Vincent.
"I was surprised with our sophomores, Russell and Romario," Dunn said. "They have been working hard and they really impressed me with some big wins I wasn't really counting on."
Orellano, who was wrestling up a weight class, took advantage of Vann's fatigue.
"He just took a bad shot and I knew he was tired," said Orellano, who worked outside of the wrestling room to get down to the 160-weight class where he will eventually grapple. "All that extra work I put in on the treadmill at home paid off."
Senior Kyle Beard (145 pounds), a co-captain with senior Justyn Angelotti (113), said that Dunn and assistant Derrick Hansen are a good fit for a burgeoning program.
"Coach Dunn brings a lot of energy to the practice room," Beard said. "He's a wrestler's coach, but he will be hard on us when he needs to be. He's a really good coach."
Dunn, who watched Beard earn a key 4-3 decision over Brock Johnson, wants all his wrestlers to get to a much higher level.
The coach took note when Beard was unable to throw Johnson to the mat for a first-period pin.
"He tried to do that, and fortunately he realized that wasn't going to work. He was smart enough to go to something else," Dunn said. "That throw is not going to work on the good guys. We want to be state champs so we are training them to beat good guys."
Beard and Angelotti are the two top returning wrestlers from last season.
Beard was fifth in the county championships and fourth at the regionals and Angelotti was a state tournament qualifier, after placing second in the region.
"He (Angelotti) will be one to watch," said Dunn, who figures Angelotti will eventually wrestle at 106.
Against Parkville, Angelotti won by forfeit, as did freshmen Chris Lancaster (106) and John Gallano (195).
Returning varsity senior Eben McCullough (126) moved up a weight class and earned a first-period pin over Tim Hall for an additional six points.
"He's a very athletic kid," Dunn said. "Once he learns to clean up his wrestling, he's going to be tough to beat."
That same philosophy goes for the rest of his squad that lost in the opening match, including senior Robert Morris (120), sophomore Tavon Stanley (132) and juniors Chris Busse (152) and Justin Smith (160).
Sophomores Orellano and Russell-Seeney are already off to a strong start and their coach is couldn't have been happier after the season opener.
"It feels great. I'm really excited," Dunn said. "I really didn't expect it, but it's something to build on and it's great for morale for the team."