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Battling through adversity, wrestling team starts a new chapter

The wrestling team poses after dominating their way to a D.C. Championship.

The 2021-22 wrestling season was truly remarkable. The team achieved an undefeated record, securing a notable second place at the WCAC championship. They demonstrated their dominance in the D.C. area, culminating in a resounding victory and reclaiming their first D.C. championship since 2018. This upcoming season symbolized a momentous transition, as Coach Milton Yates, with 20 seasons of outstanding leadership, announced his retirement. Stepping into his shoes for the 2022-23 season, Coach Reggie Snowden, a seasoned member of the program, assumed the role of the Eagle’s esteemed head coach.

Coach Reggie Snowden commented about the D.C. championship win as the passing of the torch and quotes a prayer when saying, “It’s the beginning of a new day.”

But Coach Snowden had to go through some adversity to start the year.  The wrestling room waited for their new state-of-the-art athletic performance center, causing the team to be without a home for some time. Moreover, the team experienced the departure of several key starters, including standout wrestlers Kadari Machen, J.T. Off, Noah Vetter, and Michael Dilorenzo, who graduated in 2022. Additionally, state champion Xavier Allen was unable to compete. Another blow came in the form of an injury to Captain and WCAC champion Ajani Bond, sidelining him for the majority of the season.  

Coach Snowden had his hands full in his first year of coaching, but State Champ Jack McDonough, senior, already knew Coach Snowden was a great coach. 

“Coach Reggie is a knowledgeable wrestler and coach, so I was excited to learn from him and see how the team would perform under him,” McDonough said.

To start the year, the Eagles traveled to the Golden Eagle Duels in Aberdeen, Md.  The Eagles brought out a mangled lineup filled with freshmen and wrestlers moving up and down and weight. Underclassmen Matt Van Sice, sophomore, and Bo Sulc, freshman, dominated the field but couldn’t lead the Eagles to victory as they suffered four defeats to start the year. Senior, captain, and state champ Flynn Shoji felt the trials and tribulations of leading a new team. 

“It was frustrating because I had always been the new wrestler who made mistakes but now leading an overall very fresh team every crucial mistake that cost us points or a match was a punch to the gut,” Shoji said.

The Eagles then suffered losses to DeMatha and St.Mary’s Ryken, but they planted seeds at solo tournaments where wrestlers developed.  Coach Snowden led the Eagles and went on a roll to end the year off; they defeated their rivals St.John’s and DeMatha in a rematch, both in crushing manners. They went on to win 13 of their last 15 meets, winning the Bubba Bunting Duels and finishing the year 10-0. 

The Eagles then dominated the postseason finishing third in the WCAC championships where Shoji, Van Sice and Sulc had great outings. They then cruised to their second straight D.C. state championship. In the D.C. state championships, the Eagles crowned seven state champs and all wrestlers stood on the podium.  Senior Ajani Bond returned to action and won his third state title in three tries. 

It was quite a season for Coach Snowden and the Eagles. They faced adversity but did not let it overwhelm them as they turned the pressure into gold medals. Freshman beast Jethro Ward believes that Gonzaga is up next. 

“I think the Gonzaga wrestling program has a lot coming in the future first off we have a good sized group of underclassmen who are working hard to get better and are devoted to the sport as well as our outstanding Coach Reggie who is always looking to make the team better, whether it’s one on one practice or offseason practice he knows and is willing to do what it takes to improve the program,” Ward said.

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