Note: This is the oldest known PG County newspaper article about SMWC wrestlers. It was printed the second season after SMWC's freestyle program was started.

Grant to Lead Nine Wrestlers to AAU Grand Nationals

By John D. Shabe
Journal Staff writer

Largo High wrestler Randy Grant will be looking for his fourth major championship of the year this weekend when he competes in the AAU Grand Nationals in Indianapolis. "A lot of people don't expect me to do so well because this is the first time I have competed nationally," said Grant, who will wrestle at 123 pounds this weekend. "But I'll have to get in there and show them what's happening."

Grant, a member of the Largo High based Southern Maryland Wrestling Club, won the county, Class AA Region III and Class AA state titles this past school year at 115 pounds and SMWC head coach Bruce Gabrielson said he thinks Grant might fare almost as well in Indianapolis.

"I think Randy has a good chance to finish in the top three at the grand nationals," said Gabrielson.

Grant, 16, heads a nine-wrestler contingent from SMWC that will compete in the nationals after winning the AAU Division 11 (Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virgirda) title in Richmond last month in its second year of existence. It was the first time a Maryland wrestling team has won the title.

Gabrielson credits the ascension of his team from also-ran status to a national contender to the strong wrestling tradition in this area. "Largo has the right people," said Gabrielson. "Plus there are so many clubs around. Kids come up to our level with experience. This is not the product of one person. It is the product of fertile ground."

But having Gabrielson as coach doesn't hurt either. A former national place finisher and NCAA qualifier from California State University in the late 1960s, Gabrielson, 40, brought a wealth of wrestling experience to the Washington area when he moved here to pursue his career in engineering. Gabrielson landed a job with Sachs/Freeman, a Landover research firm, and persuaded the company to sponsor a wrestling club.

"Last year we were a bunch of stragglers," said Gabrielson, who lives in Calvert County. "But this year we are more consolidated. "

Chris Toth, Grant's teammate at Largo and a first-year member of SMWC, is another of the promising SMWC wrestlers who will compete this weekend. Though this is his first year in the 132-pound class in freestyle wrestling, Gabrielson said he thinks Toth could finish in the top six at the grand nationals.

"I'm going in with some confidence," said Toth, 18. "The main thing is that I like freestyle a lot. It eliminates stalling; it is so much faster and easier to score points."

Eighth-grader Omar Malik from Forestville and Sean Blansford, a junior at Gwynn Park, are the other county wrestlers scheduled to compete at the nationals. SMWC members will compete in freestyle, Greco-Roman and sombo events.

Sombo, the Russian word for self-defense, combines judo and wresting. Gabrielson's daughter Taren is a national AAU sombo champion. Gabrielson's son, Jason, will also compete.

Gabrielson said he thinks SMWC will have a good showing in Indianapolis despite having only nine wrestlers there. The club has 16 wrestlers.

"In tournament competition you can do well if you have a couple of champions," said Gabrielson. "At the regionals we had two champions and won by a wide margin."

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