Rodriguez Gets Back With Win
by Greg Brice, The Washington Post

Three weeks after wrestling while ineligible and forcing his team to forfeit its first five victories, Seneca Valley's Tony Rodriguez made a triumphant return to the mat yesterday, beating the Washington area's top-ranked 130-pounder and leading the Screamin' Eagles past Walter Johnson, 36-30, in Bethesda.

"This win wasn't for me, it was for my coaches and teammates," said Rodriguez, who was cleared Thursday to wrestle in this tri-meet, held at Walter Johnson."I let them down [when I was declared ineligible] and I wanted to make it up to them tonight."

Rogriguez was Maryland's top-ranked wrestler in December. But after missing too many classes, he was issued a loss of credit by one of his teachers and declared ineligible. The Seneca Valley coaches said they did not know Rodriguez was ineligible until after he had wrestled in the first five matches.

After appealing to the teacher and making up for the lost time by doing extra schoolwork, Rodriguez was cleared to wrestle by school officials.

"I'm very proud of Tony for sticking it out," said Seneca Valley Coach Fred Kim, whose team is 2-1 since the forfeits. "He could have quit, he could have fallen through the cracks, but he didn't. He was patient, he did what he needed to do and he came back and wrestled a great match."

Despite missing three weeks of practice--Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules prohibit ineligible athletes to practice with the team--Rodriguez was dominant last night. In addition to pinning his Frederick opponent during the tri-meet in less than a minute, Rodriguez handed Walter Johnson senior Chris Gahl--20-0 and the Washington area's top-ranked 130-pounder coming into the match--his first loss of the season, 10-3

"I wasn't looking forward to wrestling [Gahl] at all. I thought I was going to wrestle somebody else," Rodriguez said. "I was surprised the score was 10-3. I never thought it would be that high. I guess I just wanted to win pretty bad."

NOTE: In the other matches in the tri-meet, Seneca Valley fell to Frederick, 43-30, and Walter Johnson defeated Frederick, 32-36.

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