It was a clash of friends and rivals at the National Preps wrestling championships on Saturday as Landon’s Joel Brown faced off against St. Mary’s Ryken’s Clayton Gabrielson for the third time in as many weeks. Brown had emerged victorious in their two previous encounters, but Gabrielson was determined to even the score.

The match got off to a strong start for Brown, who took an early lead. But Gabrielson quickly responded with a takedown, evening the score and setting the stage for a fierce battle on the mat.

St. Mary’s Ryken’s Clayton Gabrielson, left, wrestles Landon’s Joel Brown, right, in the 144-pound third place match on Saturday, Feb. 25, at National Preps in Upper Marlboro, Md. Credit: Shane Connuck

In the end, it was Brown who emerged victorious once again, with a 6-3 decision that secured third place for him and marked the highest finish for a Landon wrestler at the tournament in Coach Andy Katz’s 28-year tenure.

But the win was bittersweet for Brown, who had to defeat his close friend and former roommate to achieve it.

“We were inseparable,” Brown said of his relationship with Gabrielson, who is committed to wrestle at Maryland. “I want to see him succeed, but to be the one that beat him just stinks.”

Gabrielson, for his part, was emotional after the loss but still proud of his friend’s accomplishment.

“That’s the type of rivalry that just makes us both better as wrestlers,” he said.

In addition to Brown and Gabrielson, several other wrestlers from the area placed at the tournament, including St. Mary’s Ryken’s Mekhi Neal, who fell just short of a championship win in the 150-pound finals.

St. Mary’s Ryken’s Mekhi Neal wrestles Claudio Torres of Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) in the 150-pound finals at National Preps on Saturday, Feb. 25. Credit: Shane Connuck

Despite the strong showing from local wrestlers, there was a sense of disappointment among the competitors who didn’t take home top honors.

“They’re happy for the team and the success, but they’re not satisfied with how they finished,” St. Mary’s Ryken Coach Jason Gabrielson said. “It’s a good accomplishment, but that sting of not being first is going to take a little bit.”

Still, the tournament was a testament to the talent and tenacity of the wrestlers who competed, and a reminder of the fierce rivalries and enduring friendships that can be forged on the mat.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

Join the Conversation


  1. Did you just copy the plagiarize the Washington Post article? Where have you guys been all season bro!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply