St. John’s Wrestling entered the 2020 SPC Championships as the heavy favorite. The Mavericks were already back-to-back Prep State and State Duals champions, and were sending a program record of eight wrestlers to the Prep Nationals the following week. While they had won the previous four SPC championships, they could not just show up and win. They would need a total team effort against an improved field that had an advantage with a small number of teams.
The scoring system for a small meet such as SPC did not necessarily favor the Mavericks, winners of six SPC and five state championships. With only nine total teams competing, less points would be spread out amongst the field, and one or two teams could garner most of the tallies. Entering the finals those two teams were St. John’s and Episcopal. In the recent Texas Prep State meet for comparison, there were about three times as many schools in the mix and St. John’s won going away, 90.5 points ahead of 6th place Episcopal. The SPC meet left nothing to chance for St. John’s. Episcopal was much improved from a year ago when St. John’s had a 90 point lead going to the finals. Today it was only 20.
“Anything can happen,” said Head Coach Alan Paul. “You can get a slam called against you and lose the match for example. A pin can happen to anyone.”
Points are awarded for wins in each round, advancements, and extra margins of victory such as pins (2), falls (1.5), and major decisions (1). After the first regulation finals match, St. John’s clung on to a 183-178 lead over the Knights with thirteen more matches to go for the Mavericks, five of which were against EHS.
“Coach Paul told us to keep going and stay focused and DON’T GET PINNED!” said Ishan Sha ’20 who finished runner-up at 106.
The Mavericks would take any points they could muster to get a little breathing room from the Knights. The head to head battles loomed five matches away.
“If we lose those matches it’s over,” said a very concerned Coach Paul.
Fortunately for St. John’s, Ken Matsunaga ’21 delivered with a pin at 120. Luke Romere ’23 placed 4th at 113, Sebastian Grannen ’23 won 123, and Wyatt Cyprow ’22 placed 3rd at 132. At this point St. John’s lead increased to 12, still not a comfortable margin, and certainly not enough to break out the legal pad and calculate projections. They needed a win or pin over EHS to take full control.
What better wrestlers to make that happen than Sebastian Jimenez ’21 with 117 career wins and Thomas Grannen ’20 with 131 career wins. Both pinned EHS opponents at 138 and 145 respectively. The lead jumped to 210-186 over EHS and while it was not a margin for victory, the momentum was all with the Mavericks.
“We need to pick up 11 more points with six more matches remaining,” said Assistant Coach Danny Henderson. “If that happens, we got it.”
After Oliver Magdol ’22 finished runner up at 152, Michael Daichman ’21 pinned his opponent at 160 and a second surge sealed it with Thomas Chang ’21 and John Perdue ’22 pinning EHS at 170 and 182 respectively.
“We go in waves,” said Daichman. “Tommy (Chang), John (Perdue) and I feed off of each other. It happened at the state duals this year and last year.”
Jack Curtin ’20 (195) and Luke Venus ’20 (220) each finished third with pins. Venus was pinned in his first match of the day only to pin the same opponent in the consolation finals.
“I wasn’t feeling great today,” said Venus. “I had to overcome that adversity and I just dug deep and pushed through.”
Eric Johnson ’21 went to overtime to win the heavyweight division, giving the Mavericks eight SPC champions on the day. The final score was 242-190, a mathematical and physical win for St. John’s.
Sam Chambers ‘77 –Athletic News