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It would have been easy for La Plata sophomore Marty Margolis to simply bask in the limelight of capturing the 120-pound state title in early March at the Class 4A-3A state wrestling tournament inside the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House. Accomplishing the lofty feat via a thrilling 2-1 victory over fellow sophomore standout rival Morgan Way of Urbana made the exploit that much sweeter for Margolis.
But instead of the state glory — which Margolis noted in early March was just the first of three straight Maryland high school titles he’s planning to obtain before graduating — marking the end to his high school season, the 4A-3A title has only served as a launching pad for the tactically skilled, lighthearted wrestler to prove himself even more.
“Never being content with what you’ve already accomplished, always outdo yourself,” Margolis said about his mindset each time he takes the mat. “Yourself should be your biggest opponent.”
The sophomore sensation has been walking his talk.
A month after his state title, Margolis finished as the runner-up at 120 in the sophomore division of the prestigious 24th annual National High School Wrestling Championships April 3 to 7 in Virginia Beach, Va.
The National High School Coaches Association event featured three two-time state champions (some states allow middle school wrestlers to compete for high school state titles), two three-time state champions and 13 one-time state champions, including Margolis, within the sophomore division of his class.
By finishing within the top eight of his bracket, Margolis became the second La Plata talent to earn All-American honors after Josh Llopez first boasted the feat for the Warriors program as a freshman two years ago when he won the 152 bracket.
Margolis secured his All-American status by pinning Florida’s Mike McDonald in 2 minutes 52 seconds. That advanced Margolis to the semifinals where he pinned New Jersey’s Andrew Monahan in 1:34. Monahan hails from the nation’s top-ranked high school team in Blair Academy. Margolis was up, 7-1, when he decked Monahan.
“My goal at the end of my junior year is to be [nationally] ranked,” Margolis said after he arrived to Daytona Beach, Fla., around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday upon traveling all day Monday with his Maryland Cadet National Freestyle and Greco-Roman Dual Team. Margolis and his Maryland team are competing in the USA Wrestling Cadet National Duals from Tuesday through Saturday.
Before making a name for himself nationally in April, Margolis had already made Southern Maryland Athletic Conference history the month before.
Margolis joined his father, who shares the same first name, as the first father-son state champions from the SMAC. The older Margolis claimed state gold in 1991 with McDonough.
“You don’t see that caliber of competition [during high school season],” Margolis’ father added about the high school nationals. “Even after we beat a guy, we didn’t look up [his bio and national ranking] to see how good he was. [Marty] wrestles a lot better when he’s relaxed. I believe in Marty, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised in each round that he won.”
Only three-time Minnesota state champion Cameron Sykora, who began claiming high school state titles as a middle-schooler, got the best of Margolis at the high school nationals with a tightly fought 5-1 decision in the championship finals. Sykora is now a top-20 ranked wrestler nationally by certain polls.
Margolis was impressive as he worked his way to the finals, pinning three opponents while garnering a technical fall in another bout. Only one of his five wins featured a close outcome, that coming by a 2-0 decision over Arizona’s Andres Gandara to advance to the round of eight.
“Of course you want to go in there thinking you’re going to win [the championship],” Margolis said about his experience at the high school nationals. “You go in wanting to place. I started really thinking, ‘This is not as hard as I thought it was going to be.’ My dad wouldn’t allow me to look up the guys’ [bios] I was going to wrestle to see their credentials.
“I had a tough match in the round of 16 and a tough match in the quarters. I was losing in the quarters and I pinned [McDonald].”
Margolis’ father added, “[Sykora] had a different run to the finals than Marty. Marty’s run to the finals was [mostly] all pins. Sykora’s run was [mostly] all tech falls. Both had very dominant but different styles.”
On May 4 and 5 at the Middle Atlantic Wrestling Association Eastern National Championships in Salisbury, Margolis maintained his stellar wrestling by prevailing at 126 in his age group that featured big-time talent qualifying from 34 district gatherings in Virginia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Washington D.C.
Margolis, who finished third a year ago in his only previous trip qualifying for the Eastern Nationals, claimed the tournament’s title in thrilling form, much like his state title during high school season. Margolis tallied a spinning takedown as time expired for a dramatic 5-4 comeback victory to defeat two-time Virginia state champion Nick Campbell.
Margolis and Campbell also locked up in the finals of the Waynesboro, Pa.-hosted district and Shippensburg, Pa.-hosted regional tournaments on March 23 and 30, respectively. Margolis won close tussles in each of those instances as well with a 4-2 overtime decision for the district title before pinning Campbell in the second period of the regional final, which was tied at 2 before it abruptly ended.
The district and regional tournaments are the first two stages in qualifying for the Eastern Nationals.
“Some people may not think [the Eastern Nationals] is such a big tournament, but I’ve been [trying to qualify for that] tournament my entire life,” Margolis said. “When I just think about all that I’ve accomplished [the last few months], I think about being a state champ so there’s no reason no one should beat me. I’m going to continue to dominate — that’s my mindset. Of course, I’m going to respect [my opponents in the process].”
Margolis’ drive to be great is not only from within but is fueled by his desire to be the most decorated talent from his wrestling-rich family.
Margolis’ father was not just a state champion but also a five-year wrestler for the Maryland Terrapins. Margolis’ uncle, Todd, was a state champion in 1994.
“My dad started wrestling in high school,” Margolis said. “I guess I had a jump on him [with my wrestling career starting young].”
He then half-joked, “But that’s not my problem.”
Margolis’ father added, “He’s definitely elevating things. The Internet didn’t exist when I was in school. Now with the Internet, Marty wants to be nationally ranked.”