In early February, the GDS Men’s Varsity Wrestling Team won the Mid-Atlantic League (MAC) Championships for the second year in a row. This article features a run-down of the championships, achievements since then, and an interview with head coach Grayson Shepperd.
Though the season got off to a “shaky start,” according to captain William Edwards ’23, as several wrestlers stepped away from the team, the core that remained was ready for the stringent commitment needed to build on their 2021-22 season success. They didn’t disappoint. Not only did wrestlers step up in a big way within their own weight classes, but throughout the season, several athletes wrestled outside their weight class, often against bigger, heavier competitors, in order to avoid costly forfeits. Beck Holtzman ’25 and Paolo Imbroscio ’25, in particular, William said, filled the big shoes left when Anoush Keinath-Esmail, Hayden Martz, and Henry Tucker graduated.
In the MAC Championship Tournament, GDS defeated Sidwell Friends School (48-25) in Round One, the Potomac School (47-27) in Round Two, and Saint James School (41-25) in Round Three. After the 36 scheduled bouts for GDS wrestlers, the Mighty Hoppers claimed the banner, the second in the history of the program.
GDS “scraped by with a win” over Sidwell in Round One of the tournament, said William. The realization that they might lose got the team’s focus back, and an early win by Tyler Smallwood ’25 in Round Two against Potomac seemed to energize his teammates. Paolo defeated a notorious rival in that round, too, which kept the momentum rolling for the team all the way through Round Three. William’s wrestling was dominant through the season and tournament: he pinned both opponents directly in the first period. One team didn’t even bother to send their wrestler out for a repeat of a previous beatdown received in his last meeting with William.
In addition to the team victory, four athletes were named MAC Individual Champions. Congratulations to William, Beck, Mario Imbroscio ’24, and Tyler. Additionally, Bryan Berman ’25 received an All-MAC League selection.
Following the MAC Championships, the team went on to compete at DC Prep School States, where they finished second overall. Nine out of 10 GDS wrestlers placed in the top three of their weight classes. William and Beck took home the top prizes as the DC Prep Champions.
Post-Season Interview with Head Coach (and GDS alumnus) Grayson Shepperd ’11
We wanted to learn more about some of the standout performances this season and what the back-to-back victories have meant to him.
GDS: William is so humble but his wrestling has been really impressive. Can you speak to his individual growth, achievements, and leadership on the team?
Grayson: I could go on and on about William. Put simply, coaching him has been a joy. I have a deep love for the sport of wrestling, and what really makes coaching special for me is fostering that same love in my students. Of all the students I've coached, perhaps none has caught the wrestling bug like William. Training, traveling, and competing alongside him and getting to see him fall in love with wrestling in his own right have meant the world to me. I can always count on William to discuss the latest college matches or to argue with me about who will make the USA World Team. His many accomplishments speak for themselves. Over these last few years, he has been an absolute rock for this program, recording countless victories for himself and for the team, doing whatever the team requires of him without fail, and providing a wonderful example for his teammates, and he did all of that despite missing about a year and a half of wrestling because of COVID. He has put a tremendous amount of time and effort into wrestling in order to achieve his own goals as well as to support his teammates. He will be sorely missed [when he graduates].
GDS: Tell us more about the contributions of Beck Holtzman ’25, Mario Imbroscio ’24, and Paolo ’25.
Grayson: Beck is another wrestler whose love for the sport has bloomed in an amazing way, and his ability to inspire others to try wrestling has been a huge factor in our ability to win competitions as a team over these last two years. He was already a hard-working wrestler who won a lot of matches, but over the last year he has doubled down on his dedication to the sport and, having won both MAC and State Championships, has set his sights on even loftier goals, including placing at National Preps, which is a very difficult post season tournament, and wrestling in college. I'm super excited to see what the future looks like for Beck.
It was an amazing stroke of luck to have Mario come to GDS. He joined the team with a whole lot of talent and passion for wrestling, and his impact on the team has been immeasurable. It is not an exaggeration to say that the team's success over these last two seasons would not have been possible without Mario, due to his success on the mat and his advocating for others to join the team. He's been a consistent scorer, who can always be counted on to deliver when the team needs it.
Paolo's growth over the last two seasons has been amazing. I still remember a kid who was not even sure he wanted to do wrestling from the beginning of last year. To see him become the major contributor that he is now, full of competitive fire and hunger to improve in wrestling has been very exciting.
GDS: What do the back-to-back victories mean to you and in what ways does it validate the work you, your staff, and the wrestlers have been doing?
Grayson: Winning back-to-back is really exciting because it feels like the beginning of GDS wrestling's time as a strong program. We knew last year wasn't a fluke, but we did not think that this year was a guaranteed win either. Winning again has definitely given us confidence that we are doing the right things, and with the team as young as it is, we are looking forward to another few years of strong performances.
On a more personal note, GDS wrestling has always created tight bonds between its members, and I still keep in touch with many of my former coaches, teammates, and students, so I knew that bringing home a MAC banner had been a longtime dream of the program, going back to my coach Justin Gavri (a GDS Wrestling alum himself) and his coach Steve Broy (to whom the old High School room was dedicated after his passing in 2010). So, to be able to finally make that happen meant a lot to me personally.
82-15 all-time record
43-3 record in the 2022-23 season
Admiral Holloway Tournament Champion
Admiral Holloway Tournament Outstanding Wrestler
Yellow Jacket Invitational Champion
Sidwell Tournament Champion
Damascus Tournament Placer
Melee on the Metro Tournament Placer
DC Prep School Champion
2-time MAC Champion
2-time State placer
3-time All-MAC Team member
GDS Team Captain