Wrestling team qualifies eight individuals for regionals


Photo courtesy of Enzo Yamasaki

Senior Enzo Yamasaki throws down a wrestler in the third place match. Yamasaki has been a key component of the wrestling team’s success this season.

After a highly contested matchup against Northwest High School didn’t go their way in the region quarterfinals, the wrestling team bounced back with a strong performance at varsity counties. Against teams from all across MCPS, the Wildcats established themselves as a force with several wrestlers placing in their respective weight classes, including freshman Sonia Pegoue who became WJ’s first girls’ county wrestling champion in school history. The boys’ team was led by stellar finishes from seniors Enzo Yamasaki and Alex Alfelor who placed third and fifth in their weight class. Yamasaki and Alfelor will compete at the upcoming 4A West Regional Championship.

“Even though it was not the result I wanted, it felt very good considering I didn’t place at all last year. So I was proud of how much I improved,” Yamasaki said.

On the girls’ side, the team had stand-out performances from senior Laura Reyes who finished third and Pegoue who won her weight class. Reyes and Pegoue led the Wildcats to seventh place out of 18 teams at the girls’ counties. They both qualified for the 4A West Regional Championship alongside teammates Madeline Barnett, Tatianna Ayer, Hannah Sollo Bissombi, and Camille Kindrell Cobb.

“I think that the people who’ve been working hard and putting the time and effort in it were there, they showed up and wrestled their best and that is all that matters,” Reyes said.

Senior Laura Reyes pins a wrestler from Richard Montgomery. Reyes is one of the leaders on the girls’ side after being one of only three girls on the team last year. (Photo courtesy of Laura Reyes)

The team started off the season impressively with a 78-0 shutout of John F Kennedy before falling to Wootton and Churchill in a tri-meet. The Wildcats bounced back from those two losses with dominant wins over Blake and Gaithersburg. Facing off against tough competition, WJ hit a mid-season slump, losing to Blair, Clarksburg and Northwest. The team, however, found its groove again, winning four matches in a row against Quince Orchard, Richard Montgomery, Seneca Valley and Northwood. Heading into the big Battle of Bethesda tournament, the Wildcats were 7-5. The team was unable to defend their tournament title, losing to Whitman and BCC. WJ finished the regular season as the eighth seed, earning a matchup with Seneca Valley in the first round of regions. The Wildcats handled Seneca Valley with ease before falling to Northwest in a tight affair. Reflecting on the season, the wrestling team is happy with the results especially given the inexperience of the team entering the year.

“I’m proud of the team no matter what the outcome. We had a lot of new guys and girls this season and they showed that they can hang with the best,” Yamasaki said.

As the Wildcats head into the individual portion of the wrestling season, the wrestlers will still keep the team aspect of the sport as they cheer each other on the rest of the way.

“Overall the team itself made sure we supported each other for everyone who was up next to wrestle,” Alfelor said.

With eight wrestlers preparing for regionals, health is always the main priority along with continuing to train hard.

“My preparation is to work hard every day at least 2-3 times a day. Eating well and preparing myself mentally for the challenges ahead,” Yamasaki said.

Each wrestler has a goal in mind for regionals, for some, it is a placement they hope to get, but for others, they hope to avenge a loss from earlier in the season.

“I hope to beat some girls I haven’t beaten before and as long as I feel like I did my best in each match then I’ll be happy with whatever I get at regions. Always looking to get first though,” Reyes said.

Regionals take place on Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at Damascus High School.