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Perry Hall’s Victor Marks-Jenkins is out to settle unfinished business

State runner-up earned Double All-American honors and placed at the East Stroudsburg

Open in preparation for his sophomore campaign.

Just 90 seconds separated Perry Hall freshman Victor Marks-Jenkins from a berth in last season’s Class 4A-3A state championship match and potentially an undefeated season at 145 pounds.

Marks-Jenkins led, 1-0, in his semifinal match against state runner-up, Aidan Rivenburg, when

the senior from North Point High of Charles County scored a reversal and three near-fall points for an eventual 5-1 victory.

“Honestly, I was mentally and physically tired, but I had that match right up until that

happened," said Marks-Jenkins, who entered their bout with a record of 48-0, having reached the semifinals following a first-round 17-1 technical fall victory and a quarterfinal pin in 3:31.

"I was up, 1-0, in the final 90 seconds after getting a second-period escape. I had a Merkle in and I was just trying to hold him and get a move that I could end the match with so that I could conserve some energy for the last 30 seconds of the match. But my arm slipped, he got his head out, and he was able to get me on my back."

Marks-Jenkins was positioned on the opposite side of the state brackets from the previous year’s senior state runner-up Sam Ditmars of South River. A Naval Academy-bound wrestler, Ditmars ended up being last year's 145-pound champion, finishing with a record of 49-1 after defeating Rivenburg by injury default in the title bout.

Ditmars led 5-0 during his battle of state runners-up when Rivenburg defaulted with a knee

injury at the 4:06 mark of their championship match. Rivenburg finished at 41-2, having lost to Ditmars for the second time in the same season.

"I was pretty upset, but I didn't go and punch any walls or anything," Marks-Jenkins said. "I tried to keep it in as best as possible, especially coming off of a loss and going for placement in a win-lose situation. I had to understand that the next match was more important."

A fired-up Marks-Jenkins rebounded impressively, hammering his consolation semifinal

opponent by 12-0 major decision before winning his third-place bout, 7-2, over Annapolis senior Nik Antonelli. Antonelli had lost his state quarterfinal bout, 6-4, to Rivenburg.

"Realizing there was great competition with Ditmars, Rivenburg and Antonelli at states, and

being the youngest as a freshman among those guys worried me a lot," Marks-Jenkins said. "I knew I had lost, but I was more focused after losing to Rivenburg. After getting to the point where I was going to place, no matter what, I knew I had to win the next one, and then, after that, I had to beat Antonelli."

The triumph over Antonelli was particularly impressive given that Antonelli had placed third at states the previous year, and had beaten Ditmars, 1-0, in the Anne Arundel County finals before falling to him, 3-1, in overtime of their Class 4A-3A East Region title bout.

"I just had to stay motivated to keep going," Marks-Jenkins said. "It's about taking one match at a time and putting it all out there."

Marks-Jenkins ended the year with a record of 50-1 with 39 pins, three technical falls and two

major decisions as a 145-pound freshman, earning the Baltimore County and Class 4A-3A North Region titles before placing third at the state tournament.

Marks-Jenkins won the county tournament following an 8-1 decision that dethroned sophomore defending champion Russell Fary of Sparrows Point, having reached their title bout following a first-period pin and a 16-0 technical fall.

Fary ended last season with a record of 47-5 after finishing second at both his Class 2A-1A

North Regional and Class 2A-1A state tournaments.

“Fary was defending champ and Victor was the freshman, so it was a big win for those who

didn’t know about Victor," said third-year Gators' coach Doug Yoakum, a 1990 Perry Hall

graduate and former Baltimore County champion and regional runner-up. "But the match wasn’t very close. Fary was defending county champ at the time, so it was a decent match-up, but it ended up being a mismatch."

A week later, Marks-Jenkins pinned his way to the regional crown comprising falls in 75

seconds, 3:07 and 4:39. In the regional title bout, Marks-Jenkins pinned senior Manny Lucas of Bel Air, who was runner-up in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Tournament.

“This year Victor's taking nothing for granted," Yoakum said. "The work will be put in to reach the top of the Maryland state championship podium. That's an important step for Victor, with national-level Folkstyle, Freestyle, and Greco-Roman being the ultimate focus."

Marks-Jenkins' off-season regimen comprised the April 26-30 U.S. Open, the May 19-21 Central Regional, the May 26-28 South East Regional, and the August 11-13 World Team/Pan Am Trials.

"For the last several years, Victor has switched to freestyle and Greco-Roman. As dominant as he had been in Folkstyle, Victor is even better in Greco," Yoakum said. "He has adapted a lot of Greco into a modified winter season style that has paid off with a 50-1 freshman record with 47 finishes in either technical falls or pins."

Marks-Jenkins placed second in Greco-Roman and third in Freestyle at the U.S. Open in Las

Vegas, Nevada, an achievement that earned him double-All-American honors.

"Participating in these events really opened my eyes to the various levels of wrestling I'm able to reach," Marks-Jenkins said. "In preparing for these tournaments, I was given different

opportunities to practice against different people with a variety of styles."

Marks-Jenkins followed that up by earning a Gold Medal at the Central Regional in Greco-

Roman in Fort Wayne, Indiana and by also capturing Gold in the Southeast Regional in Cherokee, North Carolina in Greco-Roman.

"The Southeast was all three styles of Folkstyle, Freestyle and Greco," said Marks-Jenkins of the 15-and-under events. "In the Central, I placed fourth in Freestyle and first in Greco, and in the Southeast, I placed first in Greco and Folkstyle and second in Freestyle."

Those events prepared Marks-Jenkins for the under-15 World Team Trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he finished as a runner-up after winning eight of 10 matches. Marks-Jenkins' effort in Colorado Springs earned him the U.S. "Stop Signs" Award, which are octagon-shaped plaques given to those deemed to have performed exceptionally on a national level.

"I feel that I performed as well as I could have – even in the matches that I lost," Marks-Jenkins said. "Seeing it was a competition for the World Team Trials and to go to Pan Am was a great experience."

For his transition back to Folkstyle, Marks-Jenkins entered several off-season open tournaments compiling a record of 17-0, with all of those bouts ending in either pin or technical fall.

Ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A-3A at 165 pounds and No. 2 overall in that weight, Marks-Jenkins most recently competed at 157 pounds in last month's East Stroudsburg Open at East Stroudsburg University in Poconos, Pa. on Nov. 5.

"Victor cut down to 157 for East Stroudsburg," said his father, Eddie Castro. "He felt that a lower weight might be more advantageous since was going to be wrestling adults."

The strategy worked: Marks-Jenkins finished the East Stroudsburg event with an impressive

record of 3-1 as a 15-year-old in a 20-man bracket.

"The East Stroudsburg Open is an open event for mostly college wrestlers, featuring a lot of

Division 2 and Division 3 wrestlers and those from junior colleges," Yoakum said. "But they do allow high school-aged wrestlers to enter unattached. For Victor to do what he did there is basically unheard of."

Marks-Jenkins began wrestling as a 5-year-old in the Perry Hall Punishers program and has won three MSWA and two MJWL titles. Although Marks-Jenkins' credentials attracted the attention of area private schools, he elected to stay with the Gators.

"I am not really a fan of the private schools which attempted to [recruit me.] We have at my

school a biomedical program that I was very interested in. I have also grown up here and the

environment made it an open and shut case," said Marks-Jenkins, who is an A-student who has played baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and soccer.

"I liked the other sports, especially the pure physical nature of football, ice hockey, and lacrosse. I also liked the cardio that I would go through in baseball, football, and soccer. I did multiple sports up to the age of 10, but I would stop enjoying the other sports, and wrestling just took over, which is okay with me."

On the night that he arrived at his home in Perry Hall hours after having competed in the Class 4A-3A states, Marks-Jenkins told his mother, Stephanie Castro, "You're getting a rose when I win states next year.":

"I felt that I could have done better. I feel that I could have won it all and won a state

championship, but it didn't happen," said Marks-Jenkins, whose Gators open their season on December 5th with a 5 p.m. tri-meet against Hereford and Kenwood at Kenwood. "I even look at the national tournaments and believe that I could have been a state champion going to those events. But I've got to keep the same mentality and go after it again."

Matt Green is among those who believe Marks-Jenkins will be the next state champion from

Perry Hall High. A two-time All-Metro selection, Green was Perry Hall's last state champion in

2013. Green went 31-0 as a 220-pound junior to earn his first Baltimore County, Class 4A-3A North and Class 4A-3A state titles in 2012 before finishing at 45-0 at 285 pounds in 2013 for his second straight crown in all three of those tournaments.

Green had transferred to Perry Hall from the private school St. Paul's, where he had placed

second in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament and finished third at the private schools' state tournament.

"Victor's a monster. I think he's for sure gonna win states this year. To tell you the truth, I was

surprised that he didn't win it last year," said Green, a 28-year-old general manager of Atlantic Caterer.

"Comparing me to Victor is like comparing apples to oranges. I was wrestling against the

heavyweights and I didn't have to be that much faster than them because those guys were not very fast. Victor will be the best wrestler to come out of Perry Hall High School."

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