Gerstell wrestling coach Patrick Lloyd talks about the progress his Falcons have made this season. (Tom Worgo / Carroll County Times)
Patrick Lloyd took one look at his prospective Gerstell Academy's wrestling team in the preseason and beamed from ear to ear.
Gerstell's 10-player team included seven underclassmen. Six of them are freshmen.
It's exactly the type of situation Lloyd wanted as he continues to build the second-year varsity program that competes in the Maryland
Interscholastic Athletic Association "B" Conference.
"I was very excited to have a young team," Lloyd said. "Wrestling is a sport you have to dedicate years to even become mediocre. It's the toughest sport in the world and you can't learn it in one year. You have to compound years of experience and if I had only seniors in the room, it wouldn't have been possible."
The picture is brightening for Gerstell in both wrestlers and coaches.
The most important addition for the Falcons was the arrival this season of Dennis Frazier, who signed on as assistant coach.
Frazier spent a combined 36 years as head coach at Loyola Blakefield, South Carroll, and Century. Frazier stepped down at Century after last season, his seventh with the Knights.
Lloyd, who started club wrestling teams at both Howard Community College and Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville, is thrilled he won't have to coach the team all by himself like he did last season.
"Dennis is just a wrestling legend in the coaching community in Maryland," Lloyd said. "At Loyola, he coached them to the national dual-meet prep champions [in 2001]. He is an incredible coach and mentor. I defer to his judgment in the room."
Lloyd has also benefited from the leadership shown by his two captains: Junior Laz Friedberg and senior Tyler Curtis.
The head coach has been particularly impressed how they've worked with the team's underclassmen.
"I am very pleased with what I have seen from them on and off the mat," Lloyd said. "They keep our wrestlers focused. They are making sure they are doing the drills correctly in practice."
Curtis says he and Friedberg love working the young wrestlers.
"Some guys weren't sure if they wanted to wrestle at the beginning of the season," he said. "But they have come around. As upperclassmen, we have to set the example. I am always trying to be the hardest worker and show good sportsmanship in meets."
The Falcons participated in their first event earlier this week — the Francis Scott Key Jeff Yingling Memorial Christmas Tournament.
Freshman Rami Tadros (132 pounds) pinned Century's Nathan Haerbig to place third while Curtis was edged the 152-pound championship bout by Smithburg's Josh Atkinson, 5-4.
Tadros has the best record on the team and boasts junior league experience.
Lloyd and Frazier also expect freshmen Zubin Sahavey (106), C.J. Kovalsky (120), Grant Abbott (126), Brendan Dillon (145), and Sam Koyfman (195) and sophomore Sid Gupta (182), and to have success this season.
"The kids didn't know how to do drills at the beginning of the season," Frazier said of the four first-year wrestlers. "They are learning wrestling and really getting better. They are doing a great job."
Lloyd, who wrestled at Mount St. Joseph and on a club team at the University of Baltimore, sees the promise in his young wrestlers, but he also understands the Falcons will experience some growing pains.
"They will have some tough losses, and they will have to learn from them," Lloyd said. "You can practice all you want, but you have to get matches in. It will take the guys a while to come around. They have a lot of potential and really want to learn. We really have a lot of talented athletes."
Lloyd says his program, which started out as a club team two seasons ago, has clearly taken a step forward from last year.
"This year, it just seems like a much more efficiently run program, a much more exciting program and a much more competitive program," he explained. "Last year, we really did some really great things, but we only had six kids and one coach."