When most George Mason High School students were still enjoying the spoils of the holiday season last Friday, the Mason wrestlers were not only competing in, but also hosting a day-long tournament. In its second year, the George Mason Holiday Classic brought teams in from as far away as Richmond and Madison County.
Although all hands were on deck to help make the tournament a success, due to illness and injury the Mustangs put only seven wrestlers out on the mat Friday. Of those seven though, four finished the day as medalists.
Junior Max Aifer brought the first piece of hardware, taking third in the 126-pound division. Aifer earned a major decision over his first opponent from Fluvanna High School with a score of 16-3 before losing 3-2 in the semifinal match. Not letting the loss shake him though, Aifer came back strong with a pin to get him into the third-place match, in which he rode a pair of take-downs to 6-1 and a third-place medal.
Juniors Jack Stricker (138 pounds) and Jake Acosta (285 pounds) and freshman Hunter Sulc (145 pounds) all won their first two matches to take them into the championship finals. Stricker pinned his way to the finals, ending his first match in five minutes and ending his second in less than two minutes. Sulc kept his matches closer, taking 5-0 and 4-0 decisions into the finals. The day also saw the freshman take the lead in wins on the team with 16, passing injured junior wrestler Connor Rhodes, who was unable to compete. Acosta, in his first competition back from a bad ankle sprain three weeks ago, showed no signs of rust as he ended both of his first two matches in the first period with pins.
All three wrestlers faced much tougher competition in their final matches and, despite stout performances, all three finished in second place. Stricker took his match into three overtime periods, giving up a final escape to lose 4-3. Sulc also came within one point of first, losing 6-5 in regulation, and Acosta was up by two points in the second period of his title match before getting caught and put on his back to be pinned.
The team will compete Friday and Saturday at Edison High School in a two-day, 24-team individual tournament.