The Lake Braddock wrestling team hasn’t won a district or region title in a long time. So long, in fact, that ninth-year coach Scott Matheny had to search for the banner in the school’s gym to find out the last time it happened.
It turns out the Bruins haven’t tasted Patriot District supremacy since 1978, which was two years after their most recent Northern Region title. With a strong group of kids looking to contend for state accolades this season, Lake Braddock holds the potential to swing history back in its favor this winter.
Their path to the district and region tournaments begins this weekend at the NOVA Classic, an annual 32-team competition that offers up the area’s first real look at where everybody stands in Northern Virginia’s prep wrestling landscape. The 24th installment of the NOVA Classic will take place at Fairfax High School, where the 32 teams will compete over the course of two days on six mats.
“This weekend is almost like a regional or state tournament,” Matheny said. “It’s an individual tournament that’s set up just like our postseason tournament. So it’s a good warmup and mental prep for the postseason. With 32 teams it’s going to provide a lot of good competition and an early season measuring stick as to where teams stand in the area and in the region.”
With region favorites Robinson and Westfield not in the lineup this weekend, Lake Braddock, which finished third at last year’s event, has a good shot at earning a trophy Sunday. In a trend likely to continue throughout the season, the Bruins will count on the Haskett brothers to help set the tone for the rest of the team. Both Sean and Ryan Haskett are state-ranked wrestlers that believe the Bruins have enough talent to surprise some people this season.
Sean wrestled in the 132-pound weight class last season and finished seventh at states. Weighing in at 138 pounds this season, he’s aiming for more in his final year of high school.
“I expect to get at least top four, but I’m aiming for it all,” Sean said.
His brother, Ryan, qualified for states last season as a freshman in the 106-pound class. He’s starting at 113 pounds this year, although he admits he might drop back down to 106 to stay competitive.
Although both brothers are setting big goals this season, their coach might be the one holding the highest hopes for them.
“They’re great kids,” Matheny said. “They’re hard workers in the room, and they help the guy next to them if he’s having trouble getting a move. Expectation-wise, I probably set the bar even higher than them. I expect them to be in the state finals in both their weight classes. That’s their goal, and that’s what they should be working for. I think both of them could legitimately do it if the chips fall where they should.”
Joining the Haskett brothers will be senior Rory Renzi, who has proven to be one of Virginia’s best wrestlers ever since he arrived at Lake Braddock. Renzi has finished fifth in the state each of the past three years, and he could be on track for an even higher finish this season in the 152-pound class. He’ll replace Jake Sage, who was a regional runner-up at 152 pounds last season.
Sean Gamarra, Matheny’s son, fills the 145-pound slot vacated by Renzi. The junior will look to carry the momentum garnered from last weekend’s season-opening tournament at Forest Park, where he went undefeated. Finally, 195-pound junior Ian Riley is aiming to improve on his sixth-place regional finish last year.
“I expect us to do really well this year,” Ryan said. “We lost a few seniors, but I think we’re looking stronger than last year.”
According to Matheny, the hard work displayed by that core group so far has rubbed off on the rest of the team, a promising sign as the season gets into full swing.
“This is probably one of the harder working groups that we’ve had as a whole,” Matheny said. “You always have a clump of kids that pushes themselves to work harder, but this team’s been a little bit different in that the clump has gotten bigger. I tell them all that their goal by the time they leave is to be up on the last board in the room as a state champ. That should be everybody’s end goal, so we try to impress upon them to work for that.”