Wrestling wins conference title

The defending district champions, the Grappling Atoms, had to put their title on line at this year’s competition. The Atoms successfully defended their title, and were crowned district champs once again. This is the first time in Annandale history where the school won back-to-back district championships under two different head coaches; Last year they were victorious under coach Keith Shoulders and now they’ve won under new coach, Derek Sweet.

On the team there was four individuals who won their whole weight class bracket: senior Hammaad Lodhi for 113, sophomore Allen Kokilannanda for 126, senior Alex Joya for 138 and senior Sergio Martinez for 285 (heavyweight). There were also four who made it to the finals but finished second: sophomore Hunter Swedish for 126, senior Michael Weaver for 145, senior Azamat Israilov for 160 and senior Mohammad Hamza for 170.

“Winning two districts titles in a row is something i’ll always remember about high school, it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever,” Hamza said.

“It definitely feels great to win the district title again, but what matters now is placing top five in the region,” Lodhi said. Wrestlers who have won districts had a short amount of time to celebrate because on February 12 and 13, things got tougher at regionals.

Coach Sweet played a very important role in the Atoms victory. To come to a new school, coach kids you’ve never built relationships with, and to have to top the legacy left by Coach Shoulders is not an easy task, but Coach Sweet stepped up to the challenge.

“Coach Sweet did a really good job, coming to a new team isn’t easy for a new coach, but Coach Sweet still had high expectations for the team and he worked hard which is why we made it to this point,” Hamza said.

The team has grown to love and admire coach Sweet.

“Coach Sweet did a fantastic job keeping the team on their feet. Throughout the year I felt like we were constantly moving forward,” Lodhi said. “The best thing about him is he’s a young coach; having a coach that is able to use his abilities like he can is very beneficial for the team. I can’t wait to see how the mighty atoms are like 2-4 years from now.”

Regionals for the Grappling Atoms are no walk in the park. At regionals, the stakes are higher and the competitors are more skilled, but the Atoms stepped up to the challenge nevertheless.

“Considering we have 12 out out of 14 wrestlers on our team being regional qualifiers, I think we can do some damage,” Lodhi said.  

Regionals for wrestling took place this year on February 12 and 13. The Annandale Atoms this year have two wrestlers who qualify for states, seniors Alex Joya and Sergio Martinez. The rest of the 10 wrestlers failed to make the top three rack, so their season ended on that day.

“Regionals was a great experience for me because this was my first year making it to the postseason,” Swedish said.

This was a very new experience for many wrestlers, seeing it was the first time getting a taste of the regional atmosphere.

“I thought regionals was like a mini-Nova Classics, one of the most important meets we had earlier this season,” Grappling Atoms manager, senior Autumn Yang said.

Regionals was a very important stage in these wrestlers respective careers. All year they practiced and worked to be successful in that point in time.

“The schools that wrestled in regionals were from different parts of the area and thus it brought hard competition,” Grappling Atoms manager, Danielle Robinson said. “The competition in regionals was very stiff, that’s why only two Atoms made it to states. In this point in time everyone has experience with wrestling, there isn’t any easy wins, it’s all earned.”

“I think there’s always room for improvement for every athlete, but the guys have worked tirelessly and endured a lot to get where they are. The guys worked very hard and it showed by their obvious improvement,” Daniella once again committed     

The wrestling team this year worked very hard under Coach Sweet, but like every other sport, good is never good enough.

“I think they were really prepared, they’re really good with focusing on themselves and their matches, when it’s game time they put on their game faces,” Yang said.

This is a testament to the will and the willingness of the team as a whole. Although the team is mainly made up of seniors, the spirit of the grappling atoms will never fade.