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C. Milton Wright wrestlers missing out on what might have been

The C. Milton Wright wrestling team were winners of the UCBAC Wrestling championship last season.
The C. Milton Wright wrestling team were winners of the UCBAC Wrestling championship last season. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

When it became painfully apparent that there wasn’t going to be a winter sports season for Harford County Public Schools athletes, one group, the C. Milton Wright wrestling team, missed out on a chance of a possible best season ever.

Led by three-time state champ James Riveira and teammate Staki Gourgoulianis, a state champion a year ago, the Mustangs were loaded and primed to make a serious run at a dual meet state title.

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“We had a strong lineup, the lower weights is where, I don’t think anybody’s beating us. We probably run the table against almost every team from 106 to 145,” Mustangs coach John Thornton said. “Our upper weights were strong, not world beaters, but strong.”

Riveira, a senior, was a lock in the lineup at 126 pounds and Gourgoulianis, also a senior, gave them an unbeatable 1-2 punch at 132.

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C. Milton Wright's Staki Gourgoulianis works to pin Annapolis junior Frank Antonelli in the final of the Class 3A-4A, 120-pound weight class during the 2020 state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena.
C. Milton Wright's Staki Gourgoulianis works to pin Annapolis junior Frank Antonelli in the final of the Class 3A-4A, 120-pound weight class during the 2020 state wrestling tournament at The Show Place Arena. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“After I found out that we weren’t going to have a season it was time to like, yeah, a second title would be cool, but now I’m just trying to get prepared for Clarion,” Gourgoulianis said. “It’s sad to see that I have to leave and I won’t be able to spend my last season on the team and all.”

Gourgoulianis is planning to attend Clarion University, where he will wrestle and study Biomedical degree. Gourgoulianis says he wants to be a chiropractor.

Other seniors in the lineup are Juan Ortega (138), Logan Dvorak (182), Trey Lindsey (220) and Cam Wood (285).

“As a coach, you kind of, you can look ahead and see kind of the way things are taking shape. You have a class of freshmen come in that is strong and committed to the sport and that’s what we had in that class and a couple of classes around them that are strong,” Thornton said.

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Ortega and Dvorak both missed the chance to win 100 matches. “I was getting close, I was really hoping to do that this year,” Ortega said. “Pretty disappointing.”

Dvorak said, “Personally, this was going to be my year. I was just excited and everything kind of went downhill.”

Both wrestlers also recognize the team loss. “For the team, I think it was a bummer, I think we probably could have definitely placed, if not won states. I think we were a very promising team,” Dvorak said.

“Have a lot of key guys that are going to be graduating this year. We would have had a good shot at winning states,” Ortega said.

C. Milton Wright's Juan Ortega keeps the pressure on Bel Air opponent Allan Hernandez as he goes for the pin in the 132-pound match of a dual meet at Bel Air in 2020.
C. Milton Wright's Juan Ortega keeps the pressure on Bel Air opponent Allan Hernandez as he goes for the pin in the 132-pound match of a dual meet at Bel Air in 2020. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Senior Sawyer Graham is also an option at 160, Graham, a state runner-up in the girls tournament last year, won titles in 2018 and 2019.

Thornton recognized what he had. “You could see it all coming together and I think the kids could, too. We’ve had our accolades along the way and our milestones,” he said. “Last year we won UCBAC’s and regions and made it to the state semifinals. Furthest we’ve ever gone as a school.”

No accolade is bigger than that of the career of Riveira. The lost season ended his guarantee of adding his name to the short list of four-time state champions. Eight names make up the list, including Aberdeen alum Matt Slutzky, (1989-1992) the first Maryland public high school wrestler to win four state titles.

Slutzky, son of legendary coach Dick Slutzky, is the lone Harford County wrestler on the prestigious list.

The team also boasted a solid junior class. Dede Gourgulianis at 106 and Carter Gosincski at 145 might win 100 matches next season, despite this missing season.

Other juniors are Roy Hooe, 113, and Andrew Van Syckle, 152. Freshman Josh Strong was to bring strength and experience to the 120 weight class.

Thornton says there are also returning starters at 160 and 170, but no returning starter at 195.

“We’ve kind of been building and building and every year has been better,” Thornton said. “This is the year we could have really made our mark.”

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