by Coach Mike McLarney, two-time EIL Coach of the Year
A relatively young and inexperienced group of athletes assembled on Dec 3, 2019 to start wrestling. Led by Captains Nathaniel (Nate) Bredin ’20 and Owen Brine ’20, an additional 18 wrestlers joined up and began assembling one of the best teams in terms of wins and spirited competitiveness in the short return history of the renewed wrestling program at Portsmouth Abbey, now eight years.
Abbey Girls' wrestling
At this time two Abbey girls came out for the team. Women’s interscholastic wrestling is the fastest growing sport in national interscholastic athletics. Merritt Coward ’23 and Rose Yu ’23 -- the first two girls to compete for Portsmouth Abbey School since wrestling at the Abbey went coed, as a part of EIL wrestling competition -- both had great seasons and showed marked improvement over the short span of three months.
During competitions in December the team put together a number of decisive wins over Chapel Hill Chauncey Hall, Worcester Academy, Marianapolis Prep, Lexington Christian Academy and St. Marks School. However, the relative inexperience of the team revealed itself early on, as the team was upended by Governor’s Academy and Landmark.
The team traveled to Tabor Academy for the Annual Battle of the Bay, assembling an impressive record while battling some of the finest talent in New England and the nearby region. Owen Brine placed second; other great showings were put in by Nate Bredin, Garrett Roskelly '23, Dan McKenna '20, Jason Zhao '20, Blake Rossitter '22, Will Wahlberg '22, and David Yuan '23.
The team went on Christmas Break with high expectations and reassembled on January 7th to restart the campaign. The next few weeks proved that in some respects the Abbey wrestling team could be great, and in other respects, showed exactly where we needed to improve.
The first competition in January was held at Pomfret School, where the Abbey team was victorious in three bouts against perennial powerhouse Pomfret, as well as Marianapolis and Worcester Academy.
During this time frame, the team was hit by the flu bug, and until the EIL Tournament, did not completely rebound from their illnesses. The team managed to piece together wins over Lawrence Academy, Beaver Country Day, and Chapel Hill Chauncey Hall, while succumbing to Lexington Christian Academy, Concord Academy and Landmark School.
Of the number of indicators that tell how great a team can be, one is who wins the actual wrestling during the dual meets. Many factors come into play in the final result, and one is forfeiture; this team was plagued by forfeits. But we look at who wins the actual wrestling, and in each bout where we did not end up on the right side of the score, we would prove to be victorious in the wrestling bouts that took place. (This is a good sign for the future!)
At the beginning of February, typically the focus turns to post season tournaments, and the EIL tournament was directly in our sights.
David Yuan '23 wins his match at the EIL 2020 Championship Tournament hosted by Portsmouth Abbey School
The EIL tournament is a qualifier tournament to the New England Tournament, and we were able to qualify seven of our wrestlers directly to the NE Tournament. Third-Form team member David Yuan wrestled to a second place finish; Kene Ogbuefi '22 was crowned league champion; Garrett Roskelly wrestled to a second-place finish in one of the most exciting bouts of the tournament, which could have gone either way; Nate Bredin wrestled to a second-place finish, succumbing to his arch nemesis from Landmark; Jason Zhao wrestled to a third-place finish; Blake Rossitter wrestled to a fourth-place finish; Darrell Opoku-Kwateng '22 wrestled to a third-place finish; Owen Brine wrestled and was crowned league champion as well as the EIL Outstanding Wrestler; Daniel McKenna wrestled to a second-place finish; and finally, Mauricio Garcia-Gojon '20 wrestled to a second-place finish.
In the Girl's EIL tournament action Merritt Coward experienced a great day, defeating all of her opponents, and Rose Yu wrestled well as she continued to improve against stiff competition.
Watch Nate Bredin pin his Concord Academy opponent at the EIL Championship Tournament
The New England Tournament
The New England Tournament is a national tournament-qualifying event for the team, and it typically produces three or four national tournament qualifiers from Portsmouth Abbey School. However, this year was a little different, and the New England Tournament proved to be a severe test for some of our wrestlers:
David Yuan came within one win from placing in the tournament -- a great showing for a first-year wrestler, who showed true competitiveness and heart during the entire season.
Garrett Roskelly came within one win from placing in the tournament and actually had his opponent in pinning position, but was not successful in scoring a decisive fall. Also, Garrett was in a really stacked weight class, as all six of the national qualifiers earned national rankings at the national tournament -- an impressive showing for a first-year wrestler, a true competitor throughout the season.
Nate Bredin ran into a stacked weight class, with four of the top six wrestlers in national rankings.
Darrell Opoku-Kwateng ran into some tough opponents during the tournament, being upended by both of them.
Owen Brine placed third at the New England tournament, earning an 11th seed in the national rankings.
Daniel McKenna came within one match from placing in the tournament. As a first-year wrestler, Dan showed true grit and a lot of fortitude during the entire campaign.
The National Tournament
The National Tournament is held at Lehigh University every year, and it is the ultimate test for Independent School wrestlers. This year was no different for our National Qualifier, Portsmouth Abbey School’s own Owen Brine. As he completed his final year in competition at the Abbey, he had great expectations for the National Tournament. This was Owen's third trip to Nationals, and he held a stellar record of 22-2, defaulting only one bout earlier in the season and experiencing an upset in the New England Semi-Finals by a Trinity Pawling wrestler he had defeated earlier in the season. Alas, our wrestler faced some very stiff competition and was upended in two of his three bouts.
We should note that Owen has won more bouts at the National Level than any other previous Abbey wrestler competing at the Nationals.
National competitor Owen Brine on the wrestling mat for the Ravens
The Ravens compete in many contests and different venues. The settings in which these take place are often hostile because most of the time we are competing in an opponent’s gym; it is the nature of the sport. These settings produce some of the most idyllic and competitive situations that exemplify the true nature of what the sport brings out, in the individual who wishes to test his or her mettle inside the rings of the mat.
Nate Bredin coming back from an 11 point deficit and winning a bout 14 -13, against his opponent from Governors.
Garrett Roskelly coming back from large deficits to pin his opponent with his secret move.
Nate Bredin coming back from another 8 point deficit in a league match to pin his opponent.
Owen Brine coming back from being upset at the New England’s and 30 minutes later walking on the mat and registering a ten second pin, over the fourth seeded wrestler.
Finally, Merritt Coward coming back from a large score deficit (as I recall over 10 points) to win in the closing seconds of her match against Chapel Hill Chauncey Hall 17-16 during a dual meet at the Abbey.
These five bouts registered with the coaching staff as some of the greatest efforts Abbey Wrestlers have ever produced, a good effort and solid commencement to an anticipated successful future.
Coach Mike McLarney
We wish our departing seniors, good luck, fair winds and following seas. Come back and visit us; you are always welcome.
We welcome our returning wrestlers back to the fold for more fun and games next year as we look forward to much wrestling success from this young group.