St. Mary’s Ryken locks up its third straight WCAC wrestling title
Knights blow past Paul VI, Gonzaga and DeMatha
Published by the Washington Post on February 4, 2023
By Shane Connuck
During the third period of the 175-pound title match at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference wrestling championships, Gabe Moltumyr took control of his opponent again. The St. Mary’s Ryken senior already had a commanding 11-point lead over DeMatha’s Yitzchak Ingram, and this move led to an 18-1 victory by technical fall.
“It’s exactly what I hoped for at the beginning of the year,” Moltumyr said Saturday. “It’s what I wanted growing up as a kid.”
Moltumyr was one of nine Knights who secured conference titles during a dominant performance at Good Counsel in Olney. SMR won its third consecutive WCAC championship by posting 276.5 points and finishing well ahead of Paul VI (204), Gonzaga (162) and DeMatha (146).
After he transferred from King’s Christian Academy in St. Mary’s County following his freshman year — and after his sophomore season didn’t feature a conference tournament amid the pandemic — last winter seemed to be the first time Moltumyr would have a shot at a WCAC title. But he couldn’t compete; he suffered a high-ankle sprain at the Knights’ match right before the tournament.
Moltumyr never anticipated SMR ascending to a national power, especially after it cycled through three coaches in his three years. But he did know that a lot of its incoming wrestlers were some of his best friends — the bunch grew up together in Southern Maryland.
“They’re not just in it to win; they’re here to make a statement and prove to everybody that they are the best team,” said first-year coach Jason Gabrielson, who has known Moltumyr and most of his wrestlers since they were youth grapplers. “When you’ve got a bunch of guys like that, they don’t want to settle for a three- or four-point win. They want to kick butt and show that they are, say, 30 points better than anyone they wrestle.”
The Knights have taken on more of a national schedule this season and are perfect — mostly posting blowouts — in dual meets against teams from the area. Their only blemishes are 36-33 and 30-28 losses to out-of-state powerhouses. But they have knocked off some of those foes, including four-time defending Virginia Class 3 champion New Kent.
“To be honest, I think I kind of took a risk when I went to St. Mary’s Ryken. The school, my freshman year, definitely wasn’t as strong in wrestling as it is now,” said junior Mekhi Neal, who pinned Gonzaga’s Matt Van Sice to repeat as the 150-pound champion. “We’ve built the program up around us over the last couple years.”
Austin Wood (106 pounds), Cameron Jefferson (113), Tyler Wood (120), Evan Boblits (126), Clayton Gabrielson (144), Mason Buckler (157) and Will Buckler (165) joined Moltumyr and Neal as Knights wrestlers who stood atop the podium Saturday. Other champions included Paul VI’s Keegan McMahon (132), Cash Colbert (190) and Brady Colbert (215), as well as DeMatha’s Carter Nix (138) and Jordan Williams (285).
Brady Colbert, who joined Paul VI as a senior after wrestling at St. John’s and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), was voted the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. As a freshman at St. John’s, he won the 182-pound title at this meet.
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