Wrestling: Vandervalk, Owls keep their eye on the prize

Garret Vandervalk played football this fall while growing a beard, but the Westminster senior knew he'd be shaving once the winter season began.

Not clean-shaven, mind you. Vandervalk made sure to keep his tradition mustache for wrestling, which goes nicely with his white headband, white ankle tape, and shaggy hair.


Vandervalk sported a purple bruise under his right eye, likely the result of some tussling in the practice room. Being physically prepared is what Vandervalk and the Owls want to be all season long, and they showed their mettle Thursday in a 44-31 win over county rival Century.

Westminster (6-5, 3-0 county), already getting 12 points because of a pair of forfeits, sealed the win when freshman Kyle Rizzo pinned Jack Armstrong in 53 seconds in their 106-pound bout. That put the Owls up 32-31. Century (7-6, 0-1) didn't have wrestlers at 113 and 120, and the Owls pulled away.

"We're going in the right direction," said Vandervalk, who pinned Tom Morey in 1:14 at 182 pounds. "We started off a little slow at the Grindstone Duals, but that's OK. We didn't have our full lineup. Since then we've been working hard in the practice room, focusing on ... just beating kids' heads in."

Vandervalk smiled, not trying to be negative by his comments. Vandervalk meant Westminster wants to be stout in every aspect, from conditioning to technique. And a 3-5 performance at Winters Mill's dual-meet tournament last weekend gave the Owls plenty with which to work.

They showed it against the Knights, who led 31-26 after Jack Akers (285) pinned Jaime Rodriguez in the first period and handed the senior his first loss of the season. Sam Rothstein (10-0) preceded Akers with a win at 220, and Camden Hebert (195) picked up a pin before that.

Century needed a little more, however, and when Rizzo decked Armstrong coach Steve Willingham knew what to expect.

"It's definitely a work in progress," said Willingham, who was missing two wrestlers because of illness. "We've got to fall into our weights. We're all up, especially through the mid-weights. We made it close there for a while."

Brendan Cline (132) and Cody Davis (170) added pins for Century, which hosts Carroll foe Francis Scott Key on Monday.

The Owls, meanwhile, got pins from Jake Clark (145), Tyler Watkins (152), Rizzo, and Vandervalk, who improved to 8-3. Westminster coach Mike Flemming said he's pleased with his team's effort, from working through a rough patch during the Grindstone Duals to a tri-meet sweep against county foes Liberty and Manchester Valley on Tuesday.

It has been a busy start to the season, and things look to get busier next week with a dual-meet matchup against visiting South Carroll, the reigning Class 2A-1A state champs, on Tuesday.

"We don't put any pressure on the young guys. We take it as veterans to make the pins and stuff," Vandervalk said. "The younger guys, we just tell them to fight as hard as they can."

126: Dylan Fitzgerald (C) m-dec. Zach Caltrider 12-4

132: Brendan Cline (C) pin Jake Richard 3:07

138: Brad Walsh (W) m-dec. Nathan Haerbig 12-1


145: Jake Clark (W) pin Dan Miceli 1:24

152: Tyler Watkins (W) pin Nick Dahl 4:00

160: Riley Eckenbarger (W) m-dec. Brett Wardle 16-8

170: Cody Davis (C) pin Nic Boyle 4:00

182: Garrett Vandervalk (W) pin Tom Morey 1:42

195: Camden Hebert (C) pin Nate Seibel 0:58

220: Sam Rothstein (C) dec. Christian Hauffman 6-4

285: Jack Akers (C) pin Jaime Rodriguez 1:08

106: Kyle Rizzo (W) pin Jack Armstrong 0:53

113: Colin Moore (W) by forfeit

120: Mike Thomas (W) by forfeit