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Western Tech wrestling squad shoots for more on the podium in the postseason

Western Tech’s Ike Kalu, left, shown grappling with Lansdowne’s Jacob Beck last season, has a 14-0 record this year. Kalu, a junior, won a regional title as a sophomore and placed fourth at the state tournament.
Western Tech’s Ike Kalu, left, shown grappling with Lansdowne’s Jacob Beck last season, has a 14-0 record this year. Kalu, a junior, won a regional title as a sophomore and placed fourth at the state tournament. (File photo)

Standing on the podium at the Maryland state wrestling championship is a major accomplishment because it means the wrestler placed in the top six in his weight class.

Last winter, at the Class 2A-1A state tournament, for the first time in school history, Western Tech placed four wrestlers on the podium.

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Western Tech’s Juan Solera, in his seventh season as head coach, hopes to improve on that this season.

“Last year, getting four on the podium was the most we’ve ever had, usually we get one or two, I think three was the most we’ve had prior to last year,” Solera said.

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In 2017 and 2015, Solera’s squad qualified seven wrestlers for the state tournament and the coach is ready for more.

“We’ve take seven before, we want to raise the bar and take eight this year,” Solera said.

Of the seven state tournament qualifiers, four return, led by junior Ike Kalu.

The junior third-year grappler, ranked number one in Baltimore County at 195, is 14-0 flip-flopping matches between 195 and 220 pounds.

Kalu placed fourth in the 2017 state tournament after he won a Class 2A-1A North Region championship with a 4-3 double-overtime decision over Randallstown’s Jamaal Abdullah-Aleem.

He ended up finishing 35-3, but the last two losses at College Park in the state tournament hurt the worst.

“He is so much bigger and stronger than last year and his work ethic has just gone through the roof,” Solera said. “As excited as we were for him to get on that podium last year as a second-year wrestler, he wasn’t content. He thought he should have been in the championship finals and he thought he should have been banging for a state title. The fact that he got fourth has kind of been driving him crazy.”

Kalu’s older brother and county champion, Chukwudi Kalu, placed third in the state tournament at 285 and Noah Johnson was fourth at 195, but they graduated.

Senior Edmond Harrison was sixth at the 2017 state championship meet at 220 when he posted a 27-15 record.

Harrison improved to 16-2 this season after winning with a pin against Sparrows Point and gaining a forfeit against New Town in a tri-meet on Jan. 9.

The Wolverines split the tri-meet, defeating New Town, 45-27, and losing to defending Baltimore County champion Sparrows Point, 59-15.

The split evened Western Tech’s record at 5-5 in dual meets.

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They also competed earlier this season at the Aberdeen Duals and defeated quality programs Perry Hall and Fallston.

Solera is not concerned with the dual meet record. He’s just trying to keep his grapplers healthy.

“We’ve filled 10 to 11 weight classes, but our struggle this year has been keeping everybody healthy and getting a consistent practice schedule with the weather recently,” he said.

One of the veterans who returned after qualifying for states is senior Mohammed Sow.

Sow qualified for states at 138 last season when he posted a 22-12 mark.

“He came to us as a sophomore and made it to states last year,” Solera said. “He’s just been quietly working to get back to that state competition level and then hopefully we can get him on the podium.”

Junior Martin Jacquet made it to the state tournament last season at 113 and he’s joined by his brother, sophomore Peter Jacquet, who has a 9-3 record.

Both of the brothers are from Arbutus and were products of the Gator Wrestling junior league program.

Peter Jacquet was ranked fourth in Baltimore County at 170 early in the season, but will most likely wrestle at 152.

Jonathan Jacobs (170) and Osman Sherif (138) should also make an impact.

Jacobs is 12-6 and Sherif improved to 12-5 with a victory in the match against Sparrows Point.

Like several of his veteran wrestlers, Solera is just hoping to get experience for his younger wrestlers to prepare for the postseason.

“We are looking to lock in for the next 50 days or so and get ready,” Solera said. “This is kind of what we do. We could go 0-14 honestly as long as our kids have success.”

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