As has been the story for most of the season, the district tournament brought some good and some bad for the George Mason High School wrestling team. Eight of the team’s 11 wrestlers extended their season by at least a week by placing in the top six at the tournament with three wrestlers taking home third-place medals.
Despite the success, the day also brought about a tough injury to one of the team’s standout wrestlers this season, junior Max Aifer. In Aifer’s semifinal match, he was taking on top-ranked Zach Trueting of Manassas Park High School. Leading for most of the match, Aifer was controlling the match from the top position when Trueting managed to grab his head and pull him forward. The move severely strained Aifer’s neck and, though he finished out the match, he wasn’t able to secure the victory and was forced to default to sixth place.
Coach Bryan Harris is optimistic about Aifer’s return for the regional tournament. “Max is a tough kid and has worked really hard this year,” Harris said. “The sixth-place finish is going to make his regional tournament much harder, but I really think he has the skill to fight through and earn a spot at the state tournament.”
There were many bright spots during the day though, specifically at the 113-, 145-, 152- and 195-pound weight classes. At 113 pounds, junior Sarah Gompper started the day off well for the Mustangs with a first-period pin over Taylor Ordile of Rappahannock County High School. This brought on a tough semifinal match against eventual second-place finisher Donte Baker of Manassas Park. Gompper wrestled well, but was turned to her back and pinned in the second period. Coming back from the loss, she pinned her next opponent to get the ¾ match in which she lost to finish fourth.
At 145 pounds, freshman Hunter Sulc turned in a strong performance in his first district tournament. Sulc lost to second-place finisher Skylar Wolfe of Central High School in the semifinals to drop him into the consolation bracket. In his subsequent match, Sulc pinned Zack Armor of Rappahannock County to not only get to the third-place match but also to take over Mason’s freshman win record with his 29th victory. Sulc went on to add another victory to this total with a pin over Carlos Gutierrez of Manassas Park to leave the tournament with a third-place medal.
Junior Grant Hagler, the team’s 152-pound wrestler, had a tough road to a medal, having drawn the top ranked wrestler in the district, Rappahannock County’s Dylan Hitt, in the first round. The two wrestled a tight match into the third period before Hitt managed to secure an escape and a takedown to earn a 10-7 victory. Hagler, who was knocked out early last season and finished out of contention, came back even stronger in his next three matches, beating out each of his opponents on his way to a pin in the first period of his final match to get the team’s second third-place finish of the day.
Mason’s final medal came at the 195-pound weight class, where junior Connor Rhodes started off the day with a tough lose to Jacob Ingham of Central, whom he had previously beaten this season in a very convincing pin. Despite the loss, Rhodes rallied to win his next two matches which put him into a rematch with Ingham for third in the district. With settled nerves and refusal to fail, Rhodes dominated the match from the beginning. After securing the first takedown Rhodes managed to ride Ingham for the remainder of the period. With less than a minute left in the second period, the two wrestlers exchanged a series of scrambles that ended with Rhodes on top and his opponent on his back. The pin earned Rhodes his first district medal.
Harris expressed cautious optimism about his team’s potential for state qualifiers this weekend.
“I think there is definitely the potential for some of our guys to be wrestling in Salem next week but they are going to have to earn every win, nothing will be handed to them this weekend,” Harris said.
The Region B tournament will be held this Friday and Saturday at Strasburg High School.