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The "Tao" Tri-meet

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

For the first time in their lives, Freeman Tao and his wife, Manette, will be watching three of their four sons coaching against one another in a wrestling tri-meet on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Magruder High.

AJ Tao's Colonels (1-1) will play host to his elder siblings: Tim's Oakdale Bears (0-1) and Christopher's Poolesville Falcons (2-0). Christopher’s 6-foot-4 senior son, Nathanael, is likely to compete at 150 pounds.

"I am not sure what I will be thinking because we are there to watch wrestling," said Freeman Tao, 72, who will try to remain neutral. "Manette and I will find a couple of chairs and sit off to the side, maybe in front of the stage on Saturday."

In the name of their Father

"Our father was named, "Free Man because he was the first in his family to be born in the U.S.," said Tim Tao, 41, "with the rest being from China."

Freeman's last name, "Tao" in Chinese can be defined as "a road, path, way; and hence, the way or method in which one does something."

"All four boys are Eagle Scouts. We tried to raise them to be kind and considerate, and to be of service," said Freeman Tao, whose wife, Manette, is Caucasian. "They grew up in a close family and I think that is reflected in how they and their families are close."

All four brothers wrestled at Wheaton High for the late and legendary Dave Moquin, a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee.

Chris, 45, was the first of the siblings to take the mat.

"Dave Moquin first approached me about having Christopher join the wrestling team his freshman year at Wheaton in 1992. I Told him no but that he could play football and baseball if he kept his grades up. Christopher did well with grades as a freshman," Freeman Tao said.

"When Dave asked me his sophomore year about wrestling, I said 'OK,' after discussing with Manette. At the same time, Timothy asked if he could wrestle at Parkland Middle School. His friend, Tim Morrison, had asked him and Tim's brother, Sam, was on the Wheaton team with Christopher. We said 'Yes.'"

Chris placed fourth at regionals at 160 before graduating in 1996. Matt then followed, being a 160-pound state runner-up as a senior in ’99, becoming the lone Tao to win county and regional titles in his final high school season.

“All of my brothers started wrestling because I started first," said Chris Tao. "Tim and A.J. got to wrestle beltway, which was a big help to them. They have similar technical styles.”

Competing from 103 to 130 before graduating in 2000, Tim placed as high as second at counties and regionals and fourth at states. A 2003 graduate, A.J. was twice a county runner-up, qualifying for states three times while wrestling 103-to-125.

Like Father, Like Sons

With his sons hooked on wrestling, Freeman and Manette became even more involved -- first at county level and then at the state level.

Freeman, on the gym floor with security, and Manette, in the coaches’ hospitality room, "worked counties for 20 years" before Freeman was asked to staff the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Schools State Tournament for another 14.

AJ, 38, has been the head coach at Magruder since 2011, Chris is entering his third season at Poolesville as co-coach with Damian DeVriendt, and Tim, his second at Oakdale.

Chris and Tim served as assistants to Rob Pinsky at Blake in 2004 and 2005, then for a year at Churchill as assistants to Mike Endler in 2006. At Quince Orchard from 2007-to-2013, Chris was head coach and Tim, his assistant.

Matt Tao, 42, assisted at Wheaton for three years and spent another four seasons helping Chris, who spent one season at Churchill in 2006.

"Matt was helping Endler before I was there," Chris Tao said. "So, we had one overlapping season."

At Magruder AJ has coached state champions, Isaac Righter (285) in 2020, and now has defending champions in junior Neil Sharma (126) and a girls’ junior state champion in Ana Martins (105).

“I’ve been coaching since 2007, so I guess it’s been for 16 years or so now. I started at Northwood and did four years there,” said AJ Tao. “My best wrestler at Northwood, Luke Stocky, was a county and regional champion who placed third at states.”

At Quince Orchard, Chris and Tim coached Class 4A-3A state champion Dake Williams to a 275-pound title in 2009.

Tim Tao then spent eight years at Poolesville where his Class 2A-1A state champions were Alex Carbonell (2019) and Xavier Kresslein (2020), the latter of whom Chris coached as a junior leaguer.

The Tao’s contributions aren’t only confined to coaching.

AJ is a science teacher. Chris is a middle school physical education instructor.

Tim is a para-educator at Damascus High who is on the verge of opening his own fitness facility.

Matt's coaching years appear to be in the past as he runs his own construction business.

"Freeman was a reliable dependable state tournament worker for more than 10 years," said Jim Meehan, a former coach at Walter Johnson High, who directed the MPSSAA tournament for 12 years.

"It's not surprising at all to see that his sons are giving back to the sport in a positive educational way. The Tao family is a classic example of the quintessential wrestling family in Montgomery County."

All In The Family

Chris' daughter, Alana Tao, is entering her third year as the team's manager and bookkeeper. Chris' other daughter, Audrey, is a seven-year-old second grader who has been practicing with the Poolesville Wrestling Club.

“The family will be spending Christmas together as we do every year,” Tim Tao said. “I have three children of my own and all three wrestle. My daughter Layla is 13, and my sons are Luke, 10, and Zach, 7.”

AJ's two sons, Noah, 10, and Jordan, 7, are wrestlers. Both play soccer, with Noah also being involved in football.

"When I watch my grandkids wrestle the coach, part of me is analyzing," Freeman Tao said. "But the grandparent part that knows about the challenge each grandchild is trying to overcome takes some pride in them being on the mat."

Sibling Rivalry

The siblings engaged in some pre-match trash talk earlier this week, among the topics being their competitive records against one another.

While Tim never has coached against Chris, the elder siblings are each a combined 8-1 in dual meets against AJ.

"I believe that my record against AJ is 8-1 all-time dating back to when he coached at Northwood High," Tim Tao said. "I have never wrestled against a team with Chris because we have coached together for most of his career, so this will be a first."

Chris agrees with Tim on their mutual advantages against AJ.

"Tim was my assistant for six years at QO. If you count our joint time together at QO, that's probably accurate," Chris Tao said. "We were 6-0 against AJ while at QO. I'm guessing AJ is 1-1 against me while I've been at Poolesville, and this is Tim's first-time taking Oakdale against AJ."

Poolesville is coming off a fourth-place finish at last Saturday’s 16-team Mad Mats Invitational tournament at Magruder, where the Falcons crowned juniors Vinnie Volpe (144) and Shimma Wexler (165).

Falcons freshman Ethan Dimmerling (113) and senior Andrew Fraser (215) finished second, while Nathanael's fourth place finish at Mad Mats "was his best tournament showing," said Chris Tao.

“I know Nathanael well because I did coach him the Covid year and his sophomore year,” Tim Tao said. “I also do personal training with him, so I know he is strong. He can be dangerous from all positions because of his height. From bottom, he’s got a scary reverse cradle. But just like wrestling your friend though – once you step out on the mat, it’s all business.”

The third-place Colonels had one Mad Mats champion in senior Max Pasquier (138), with runner-up finishes from sophomore Sava Makarov (120) and junior Jimmy Messer (132), a third-place effort from junior Shane Kelly (190) and a fourth-place from sophomore Dilan Serrano (285).

While sixth-ranked sophomore Class 4A-3A state champion Neil Sharma leads the Colonels, returning ninth-ranked senior Class 4A-3A state champion Cooper VanScoyoc (138-144) will pace the Bears.

A.J. got the last word.

"Of course, if I were to wrestle any of my brothers I would definitely win," AJ Tao said. "Timothy won't wrestle me anymore because I always hurt him and Christopher is too old and broken, ha ha."

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Stellar band of brothers those Tao boys. It was a pleasure to serve along side of them during their teen years. May the best bro win!

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