Success is often contagious in wrestling, but the lightweights for South Carroll have taken that mantra to a new level so far this season.
Freshmen Michael Pizzuto (106 pounds), Gage Owen (120) and AJ Rodrigues (126), and sophomore Ryan Athey (113) each won titles at the Damascus Holiday Tournament last weekend to cap a dominant December where the four grapplers combined for a record of 83-1 with 46 pins.
“We’re very, very young but there’s a lot of talent and growth coming with those kids,” South Carroll coach Matt Thomas said. “… They brawl in the room back and forth and they push each other. They want to see each other succeed.”
Pizzuto is 21-0 with 10 pins and cruised to the title at Damascus with notable wins against Williamsport’s Zaden Meyer, a senior who placed third at last year’s state tournament at 113 and was ranked No. 2 in the state at 106, and Bullis’ Enzo Bell.
“Michael’s not giving up many points,” Thomas said. “He’s been scored on maybe three times all year. He’s in a great position and he’s rolling right now.”
Athey, a returning state finalist who is 19-1 with 12 pins and the eldest of the group, took down Williamsport’s Zach Starr, a third-place finisher at last year’s state tournament, in overtime for the Damascus title. Athey beat his other two opponents via technical fall.
“Ryan came right off the mat and he went right to the drawing board, like I could have scored here, here, and here,” Thomas said. “That’s a good mentality with him after taking a tough loss the weekend before.”
Owen is 21-0 with 11 pins and also beat a higher-ranked opponent en route to his championship, as he defeated Williamsport’s Brandan Myers and two other out-of-state grapplers.
Rodrigues is 22-0 with 13 falls and beat Williamsport’s Landen Harbaugh, a returning state finalist, 8-3, in the finals.
“It’s pretty cool as a coach, and I’m sure as a kid, too, in the big tournaments to have guys in the finals at these big tournaments and have 106 to 126 back-to-back-to-back-to-back,” Thomas said. “The kids are warming up as Michael goes out and he’s wrestling and you got Ryan, his drilling partner, warming up on the side of the mat. Michael wins, comes off, smacks Ryan and gives him a little encouragement and he just got out and he follows, and so do the other guys. It’s awesome seeing these kids at such a young age succeed.
“There’s big things coming for these kids and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
South Carroll returns to action this weekend at the annual Iron Horse Duals tournament at C. Milton Wright before hosting Century and Liberty in a tri-meet Jan. 8.