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Spalding's Taina Fernandez wins Beast of the East

Freshman Taina Fernandez dominated the 130-pound field for the title at the second-annual girls Beast Of The East Tournament last weekend, nailing down falls in 22, 41, and 91 seconds on top of a 14-1 major decision at the Bob Carpenter Center on the University of Delaware's campus in Newark, Delaware.

Ranked No. 1 nationally among girls at 130 pounds by USA Wrestling, the 14-year-old Fernandez improved to 10-1, officially becoming the first Maryland female to win the event.

"In regard to being the first girl from Maryland to win, it feels awesome," Fernandez said. "But I am more grateful for the opportunity to compete at the same venue as the guys on my team who were present and showed me their support."

Fernandez's 91-second fall finished sophomore championship rival, Sophia Slaughter of Virginia's Orange County High, this, after her pinning senior Delaney Gray of Queen Anne's in their semifinal bout.

"Overall, I’m proud of my performance at Girls Beast of the East," Fernandez said. “I just took it one match at a time all the way up to the finals."

Gray placed fourth in the event after winning six of nine bouts, while her junior Queen Anne's teammate, Kaylynn Bryant (170), placed third after winning seven of nine matches.

Bryant and Gray were among their eight Lions' team members who participated in the tournament, which offered placements as deep as 12th in some weight classes. "No matter how big a competition is," Bryant said, "To have success at a tournament like this, you just need to relax, have fun and enjoy your teammates. It takes all the stress away." The Lions finished fourth among the top 30 of the 73 teams represented in the tournament.

Finishing sixth was the Lions' sophomore Linda Vail (135), with senior Julia Reburn (140) being seventh, and both juniors Ally Conley (105) and Ava Price (120), eighth. Crofton placed 130-pound sophomore Isabella Coe (sixth), 105-pound junior Havana Gonzalez (seventh) and 115-pound junior Grace Ackerman (eighth). Fernandez got off to a brilliant start this season, finishing third among 126-pound boys at the December 1-2 Ray Oliver Tournament at McDonogh. Fernandez posted a 5-1 record that included two pins and a major decision at McDonogh.

“The McDonogh tournament gave me the confidence that I need to compete at 126 and I feel as though that’s a really strong weight for me," said Fernandez a day after the tournament. "If the team needs me at 120 or 126, we’ll see how it goes. Beast of the East is definitely a tournament that I know for sure I’m going to try to do this year, along with the National Preps."

Wrestling as an unattached participant at McDonogh, Fernandez lost her quarterfinal bout, 7-5, to teammate, Sean Garretson. But Fernandez wrestled back to take third place, finishing with a 5-1 record that included two pins and a major decision. Fernandez's 5-3 victory over sophomore Drew Roggie of St. Christophers of Virginia was good for third place at McDonogh.

In Roggie, Fernandez defeated a wrestler who was sixth at last year’s National Preps Tournament where he defeated Jake Tamai of Mount St. Joseph, who is a returning MIAA and private schools state champion. Garretson was the eventual champion at McDonogh, having been last year's MIAA runner-up and third-place finisher at the Maryland Independent Schools State Tournament who placed seventh at National Preps.

"This was only the second annual girls’ beast of the east," Fernandez said. "I know there will be more of us Maryland girls getting the title next year."

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