Freshmen wrestlers light a spark for Manassas Park


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Manassas Park coach Richard FitzSimmons knew what to expect with the Cougars’ Class of 2006.

Three of FitzSimmons’ newest wrestlers — freshmen Lam Le, Todd Smoot and Sergio Chavez — are also his oldest. FitzSimmons, as a middle school teacher, was familiar with the exploits of the three during their days in middle school. Just last year, Chavez won a middle school state title, Smoot finished second and Le was fourth.

Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of high school success: Last week, Le and Smoot won Bull Run District championships, while Chavez finished third. They’ll try to build on that success this weekend, when the Region B championships begin at Buffalo Gap High School.

“They’ve been tremendously successful,” said FitzSimmons. “Lam and Todd were great middle school wrestlers, but I wasn’t sure if they could make the transition to high school wrestling as freshmen. But they’ve stepped up.”

FitzSimmons recruited Le and Chavez to try out for wrestling when they were in middle school. Smoot, meanwhile, was an accomplished wrestler before reaching middle school, wrestling year-round in other forms of wrestling.

But Smoot did have to go through a bit of transition to adjust to wrestling on a high school varsity team.

“Intensity-wise, it’s been tougher,” he said. “These guys get after it much harder. And in practice, you’ve got to step up, that’s a lot tougher.”

Le now wrestles year-round, and Smoot still does. Chavez takes some time off to concentrate on another love: soccer.

“I’ve been playing soccer all of my life,” said Chavez, who wrestles at 145. “But I’ve only been wrestling two and a half years.”

Chavez said his goal from the beginning of the season was to place at states, but as that draws nearer, he admitted he’s a little nervous.

“I’ve got to worry about who I’m going to wrestle,” he said.

Le is the lightest of the three, wrestling at 103. And though his season has been successful, he didn’t think things would turn out this well — even long after the season had began.

“I had some doubts, because there are plenty of other kids I haven’t wrestled,” Le said. “If I wrestled everyone in the state that I would wrestle, I’d be sure of what would happen.”

All of this has happened under the watch of FitzSimmons and his seniors, including Daniel Wadel, Billy DePugh and Walter Lurchenfeld. Those three were thrust into leadership positions last season as juniors — because then, they were the oldest members of the team.

Those three aren’t hurting for success, either. At last weekend’s Bull Run meet, Wadel won the 130-pound title while Lurchenfeld and DePugh both finished second.

“It’s been pretty fun,” Wadel said of showing the freshmen around this season. “I always wrestle around with Lam, and I teach him moves he didn’t know before. He picks it up quick — if you show him something two days before a meet, in the meet, he’ll do the move that you just showed him.”

“The seniors set a good example, they work hard,” said Smoot. “They show the freshmen what it takes to be a starter.”

“They really support us and they help us,” added Le. “They help us watch our weight and cut weight, and they give us rides home if we need it. They’ve been helpful.”

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