- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The conclusion of Tuesday night’s wrestling match was the perfect storm of sorts as a pair of defending state champions — Garrett Lineberger of Thomas Stone and Matt Gancayco of Patuxent — tangled in the final bout of the night.
Lineberger was wrestling in his customary weight class of 182 against Gancayco, who bumped up from 170.
Lineberger won a Class 4A-3A title last year, and Gancayco’s came in Class 2A-1A at 145 pounds.
Aided in part by a 12-pound weight advantage, Lineberger remained undefeated on the season with a 7-2 victory to help the Cougars rally to beat the Panthers, 41-33.
The Cougars (16-5, 7-3 SMAC) trailed three times in the match — which began with the 195-pound bout in part so the champions could end the night — but won six of the last nine bouts to win the match.
“We looked a little better this week than we had last week,” Stone head coach Michael Kositzke said. “Our energy looked a little more up and so was our focus. This was a tough match against a good opponent, and it could have gone either way. Luckily, we came out on top.”
Stone trailed 27-26 with four bouts remaining, but it came back to earn the win over the Panthers (11-6, 5-6) and secure its fourth straight winning season.
“We’ve been on kind of an up and down streak,” said Stone’s Ryan Sharp, who earned a pin at 152, “so it was exciting to get a win for the team.”
The wrestlers and their coaches had wanted the Lineberger-Gancayco matchup.
“Absolutely,” Kositzke said. “Any time you have a chance to put a guy against someone like that, you take advantage of that. I commend [the Panthers] because they were the ones who had to give up the 12 pounds and do everything like that. I think we both benefitted from it; we’ll find out. He’s wrestling well, but there’s a lot of competition out there, and we don’t take anything for granted.”
Patuxent head coach Mike Bartley first mulled the idea of the two facing off at the Patriot Classic in early January.
“What we wanted to do was take the No. 1 kids and match them up just because [they’re about to] go away to college and they’re going to see that level of competition the rest of their lives,” Bartley said. “So, we had talked about it at Northern, but we were like, ‘No, Garrett’s too big.’ We’d been talking about it for a while and just the level of competition; if you want to be the best, you have to wrestle the best.”
The wrestlers, who began grappling alongside each other when they first took up the sport and remain friends, were just as enthusiastic as their coaches.
“I really needed this match because I haven’t had a lot of challenging matches because people will duck away sometimes [from a state champion],” Gancayco said. “I was glad he wanted this match, as well. It’s a great experience and it definitely prepares you for states, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I’m glad we both took the risk.”
Lineberger added, “I’d been hearing rumors that he might bump up but I wasn’t sure, and then they told me right before [tonight’s] junior varsity started, so I just put on my headphones to get in the zone. I just like having tough matches, especially my senior year, just to make sure my skills stay sharp.”
Lineberger grabbed the lead with a takedown 27 seconds into the bout and made it 4-0 on a second takedown early in the second period. “Anytime you have a match where you have two defending state champions and two guys ranked first coming out, you want to come out and set the tone early,” Kositzke said. “We wanted to go for that low single right away and try and catch him off guard and get the advantage going, and luckily, it went that way for us.”
“[The 12-pound weight advantage] was definitely a difference, but Gancayco’s a strong wrestler and a tall wrestler and I hate wrestling tall people,” Lineberger said. “I’m definitely a bit stronger, but we’re both right there.”
Gancayco pared the lead in half when he dove out of the way of a takedown and executed a reverse on Lineberger midway through the second period.
“When he reversed me, he shocked me,” Lineberger said. “I went for like a roll, and he got me.”
Lineberger added three unanswered points in the final period to improve his season record to 28-0.
“When I took him down the third period, I was debating trying to keep him down, but he has a nice headlock and I didn’t want to get caught late in the match,” Lineberger said. “Maybe I didn’t do as much as I should have, but I think I did enough to win the match.”