Washington Latin entered this season with much of its roster being first-year wrestlers. A notable exception: Zemen Sium, last year’s 126-pound D.C. champion who had completed an undefeated season.
Early last summer, Sium bent his knee backward while practicing. He quickly recovered but later tore his left ulnar collateral ligament, which kept him sidelined for three months. He sought answers about dealing with injuries from Helen Maroulis, a Magruder alum and Olympic gold medalist.
“She said, ‘It’s sad, but after injuries, that’s when people show their biggest progression,’ ” Sium recalled. “I kind of held to that … and was hoping and praying I could make it to the state championships without another injury.”
Sium, who brought the program its first individual title last year, easily pinned Bell’s Maycol Olivares in the 126-pound bout of the D.C. State Athletic Association championships Saturday at St. Albans, where he was voted most outstanding wrestler for the second straight year. It capped a 16-1 senior year — he lost his first match of the season — and an even bigger achievement for the young program.
With 156 points, the Lions pulled away from Jackson-Reed (133) for the team title at a meet featuring eight public and charter schools.
The independent schools held their own championship simultaneously at Gonzaga, which the Eagles won by more than 100 points. To qualify for next week’s National Preps in Upper Marlboro, D.C. private schools could not compete in their state championship.
“That was a major shortcoming of this year in the wrestling season and that we hope to fix by next year,” said Washington Latin Coach Rickey Torrence, who expressed the desire to build his program to the point where it can consistently compete against programs such as Gonzaga.
The D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association had hosted its first wrestling championship in 30 years Tuesday; it featured all of the schools at Saturday’s meet, except Latin. The Tigers (188 points) beat host H.D. Woodson (184) and Bell (156) to claim that title.
In 2018, Max Meltzer, chairman of Beat the Streets D.C., realized that Wilson, now known as Jackson-Reed, was only allowed to compete with the D.C. private schools in their state championship because it operated as a club program. A Silver Spring native who became a state champion at Bullis, Meltzer didn’t see a reason a sport as simple as wrestling hadn’t been in public schools for so long and led efforts to bring the sport back.
“This is a great, crowning achievement to have our first city championship, but there’s more work to be done,” Meltzer said. “We can have more kids here, more programs; we’re constantly figuring out how to improve the product here and impact more kids.”
Washington Latin freshmen Jackson Trinca (106 pounds) and Preston Olander (132) joined Sium atop the podium Saturday. Olander has been competing at the club level since he was 4 and became practice partners with Sium.
“He’s a bit better than me,” Olander said. “If you want to improve, you’ve always got to be wrestling people better than you. That’s why Zemen has been so great.”
Other champions include Jamari Myers (H.D. Woodson), Duncan Stadler (Jackson-Reed), Kavon Hill (Bell), Brayden Black (Jackson-Reed), Alexander Ouzts (Jackson-Reed), Kenai Rivera (Bell), Jesse Corn (Jackson-Reed), Samuel Lusinga (H.D. Woodson), Casey Wood (Jackson-Reed), Randy Fleming (Dunbar) and Perryellis Spriggs (Dunbar).