Century’s Carson Fitzgerald and Francis Scott Key’s Wyatte Johns seem to be on similar wrestling paths this season.
Both are first-year varsity regulars. Fitzgerald is finding his place after a year of competing in exhibition matches and failing to maintain a stead weight, while Johns built his base at the junior varsity level before landing in FSK’s lineup this winter.
The grapplers now share something else — they’re Jeff Yingling Memorial Wrestling Tournament champions for 2018.
The annual tournament at Francis Scott Key High School, now in its 53rd year, took place Thursday with county wrestlers from Century, FSK, and Gerstell Academy in the field. Carroll crowned three champs — Fitzgerald at 106 pounds, Gerstell’s Rami Tadros at 145, and Johns at 220.
(Two pounds were added to each weight class, so 106 was 108, 113 was 115, etc.)
Tuscarora won the team title with 228.5 points, and the Titans had four champions. Century was fourth out of 11 teams with 123 points, Francis Scott Key finished eighth (74), and Gerstell tied for ninth (54).
Fitzgerald, a sophomore, improved to 13-1 and posted three pins at the tournament. He decked FSK’s Zach Kinloch in 3 minutes, 43 seconds to take the title. Fitzgerald didn’t get many chances to showcase his skills on the varsity mat a year ago, and said it motivated him to improve.
“Now that I have more time to practice, I’ve become a better wrestler,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been able to work out with my teammates more.”
Fitzgerald said he battled with himself more than his opponents because of his weight issue. These days, he said, pizza is keeping him heavy enough to be a mainstay in Century’s lineup.
Knights coach Steve Willingham is fine with Fitzgerald’s carb loading, and said he has seen plenty of growth from his underclassman.
“He is so focused in the practice room,” Willingham said. “He’ll come in there early and the other guys will be talking or whatever, and he’ll be out there doing shots and drilling on his own. He’s constantly working on things like that.”
Willingham had Dylan Fitzgerald, Carson’s older brother, as a team captain last season. Century’s coach said the older Fitzgerald, who graduated back in the spring, being in FSK’s gym Thursday to watch his little brother win a title was special.
“It’s a great boost for him,” Willingham said. “[Carson] saw what [Dylan] did … I’ve got to think that he sees it as, he’s kind of looking up to his older brother.”
Century had four runners-up in Lorenzo Lira (113), Billy Bentley (152), Jake Eggers (170), and Tom Morey (195).
Tadros stayed undefeated (7-0) with two wins at the tournament, and edged Frederick’s Jared Colwell 3-0 in the final. The Gerstell senior used an escape and takedown in the third period to notch the win.
Johns, a junior, ran his record to 12-2 and posted two pins, both in the second period. Frederick’s Chris Baidoo went down at the 3:01 mark in the final to ensure the Eagles had a champion at their own tournament, and it gave Johns his 10th pin of the season.
Competing in front of the home fans gave Johns a little extra incentive to perform well. Being on the varsity squad certainly helps, too.
“It’s going pretty well,” Johns said about the first month of the season. “It’s a lot better than last year.”
1. Tuscarora 228.5, 2. Frederick 143, 3. Long Reach 131, 4. Century 123, 5. Milford Mill 110, 6. Brunswick 101, 7. Overlea 97, 8. Francis Scott Key 74, 9. Gerstell 54; Walkersville 54, 11. Silver Oak 7.