Zemen Sium of Washington Latin, left, wrestles Noah Vetter of Gonzaga on Saturday at the DCSAA wrestling championships at St. Albans. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)
By Shane Connuck
February 19, 2022|Updated February 19, 2022 at 5:27 p.m. EST
Trailing in the 126-pound match at the D.C. State Athletic Association wrestling championship Saturday, Washington Latin junior Zemen Sium was in a scramble situation with Gonzaga’s Noah Vetter. Sium knew what he had to do — pin his opponent.
Sium flipped Vetter onto his back, doing just that, energizing the crowd at St. Albans School in Northwest Washington. The newly crowned state champion ran to Coach Rickey Torrence and jumped into his arms — the first time Torrence experienced that in his 20 years of coaching.
Washington Latin Coach Rickey Torrence embraces Zemen Sium. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)
With the pin, Sium became the first D.C. state champion in Washington Latin history and completed a perfect 20-0 season individually. He was voted the event’s most outstanding wrestler.
“I remember thinking when I was in the pinning position, ‘No way I’m actually doing this,’ ” Sium said. “All the hard work’s paying off.”
Meanwhile, Gonzaga, which had eight individual winners, won the team title going away with 242.5 points. St. John’s came in second with 126. Gonzaga entered as the heavy favorite to win in longtime coach Milton Yates’s final local meet.
Washington Latin’s bit of success, however, was less predictable.
When the school switched to virtual learning amid the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of Sium’s freshman year, Torrence met with his wrestlers once a week on Zoom through Beat the Streets DC. In addition to bringing in guest speakers, Torrence kept spreadsheets tracking his wrestlers’ workouts.
Sium was one of the most active participants, continually doing pull-ups to stay in shape.
Even after the Lions returned to the mat, they were forced to pause for a month this season because of coronavirus spread. Sium didn’t stop wrestling, though. He battled a dummy at home and spent at least 30 minutes every day practicing his moves.
“His passion and energy level are as high as a coach could ask for,” Torrence said. “He is a student of the game.”
The energy level, particularly from teammates, was also high within the gym following Sium’s win.
“I literally almost cried,” teammate Jackson Lewis said. “I feel like a lot of people count us out.”
By the end of the event, Gonzaga got to rejoice, as Eagles heavyweight Xavier Allen took care of St. Albans’ Clyde Eaton to punctuate a dominant day.
“It felt like I was on top of the world,” Allen said.
As eight Eagles celebrated with medals around their necks, Yates fought back tears. He hugged and congratulated each of the wrestlers. Gonzaga will be represented at the National Prep School championships next weekend in Upper Marlboro, Md., but this still represented some finality for Yates after 20 years at the helm.
“He’s everything to us,” said Kadari Machen, the 220-pound champion. “He puts in a lot of work. I’m very happy for him.”
John McDonough (120), Wyatt Croog (132), Ethan Heim (138), Matt Van Sice (145), J.T. Off (170) and Ajani Bond (195) were Gonzaga’s other state champions. Heim and Van Sice are freshmen.
This championships continued a successful season for the Eagles, who also went 11-0 in dual meets.
“We’re always training for the top kids in the country,” Bond said. “But it always feels nice to know you’re the best team in D.C.”
Zemen Sium breaks through for Washington Latin wrestling; Gonzaga cruises to DCSAA team title - The Washington Post