St. Paul’s young wrestling team scores championship milestone

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.

I read the article twice.

The reporter was there; I saw her taking notes. But on the third read, my shoulders slumped. There was no mention of our team’s extraordinary feat.

Then I plopped on my glasses to read the tiny results schedule. And there, under Wrestling, Independent School Championships, was a small asterisk beside St. Paul’s ninth-place finish.

The note read, “B Conference Champion.”

“Yes!” I shouted and began waving Sunday’s Sun. In black and white, after almost 30 years, St. Paul’s had a wrestling championship all its own.

Wrestling has been part of my life since college days when I dated a wrestler for four years. Those wrestlers were a unique bunch. Muscular, yet lean, most had an intensity about life that was both charming and a little scary. Often their unbridled enthusiasm ushered adventure into the ordinary while translating into a steely resolve on the mat.

Discipline ruled during the season where 6 a.m. runs and three-a-day workouts punctuated their college schedules. And in competition, where one man’s training, technique and conditioning faced another’s, each stood alone, and the battle of the will to win began.

Twenty-five years later, my son Peter first stepped out on a wrestling mat to compete. As a 7-year-old, Pete’s best move was his bridge, the desperate defensive position designed to prevent shoulders from touching the mat and being pinned, the goal of every wrestling match. But with good training and coaching, his technique flourished and he soon knew how to pin to win.

In high school this year, he joined the small and surprisingly young team at St. Paul’s. With no seniors or juniors on the squad, the sophomore-led team competed admirably within their limits. But it was hard to win a meet with no wrestlers in five of the 14 weight classes, since each forfeit counts the same as a pin in team scoring.

Weight classes structure wrestling, equalizing the competitors. Their weight defines them. It’s not just Connor Clayton; it’s the 119-pounder. Or the 130-pounder, Austin Sauter.

The coaches adjusted the abbreviated lineup to keep the team competitive. Kids sometimes “wrestled up,” or competed in a higher weight class to help the team score. Some, like Clayton, Sauter, and 125-pounder George Doub, lost chances of individual medals at tournament meets when their wins were split between weight classes.

For others, like heavyweight Hunter Lee who’d never set foot on a wrestling mat before this season, the small team demanded he excel immediately and wrestle varsity.

Everyone had to learn how to offset the forfeits. Winning wasn’t enough. They became, as team captain Nick Skudrna says, “The pinning team.”

And it worked. With a 12-9 record, they headed to the state championships.

With eight entries and six forfeits, five wrestlers pinned their way into the next day’s rounds. No one wrestled with more heart than freshman Michael Green, who wrestled with one leg taped stiff with a double knee brace. He still pinned two opponents.

While his father made room for him on the bench, I could only offer my cooler’s baggie of ice to the spent young man as his dad draped a comforting arm around his courageous son.

Eight pins later, the small but mighty team hoisted high the B Conference Championship trophy. Freshman standout Eric Friedman received the outstanding wrestler award.

What a tribute to the team, the coach, and the sport where the will to win pushes individual achievements to accomplish extraordinary team goals.

Even if only marked with an asterisk.*

*Four of the eight wrestlers qualified for National Preps: Friedman, Galli, Skudrna, and Lee.


  1. I just found your blogs, Rebecca, and I am in love with them. This wrestling one is especially close to my heart. I am a mother of four (now adult) sons who all wrestled in high school and one in college. Our son, who wrestled in college, was a State Champion in MN his junior year of high school. He is still involved in wrestling as an Assistant Coach at St. Olaf in Northfield. You could say ‘wrestling is in our blood’! Only a mother of wrestlers understands these feelings and the drive these young men have. I sincerely believe this sport makes them better all-around men!