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The Wendel Wrestling Family: Spotlight Lincoln

Springbrook junior Lincoln Wendel is coached by his father and looks up to his older brother, Grayson, even though each stands 6-foot tall.

Ranked 11th by Legacy Wrestling at 165 pounds, the 17-year-old Lincoln Wendel can become the Blue Devils’ ninth state champion following Grayson and Ayden Smith in 2022. Lincoln can also join Smith as only their program’s second junior to win a state title.

An A-average student, Wendell is 38-0 with 27 pins, having competed in all but three of his matches at 175 pounds. Lincoln has dropped to 165 pounds entering this weekend’s Montgomery County Tournament at Gaithersburg High.

Lincoln’s three matches at 165 pounds happened at January’s Grapple at The Brook at Springbrook, where he earned a 43-second pin, a 12-2 major decision and a 17-2 technical fall in the finals.

Having earned his 100th career victory earlier this month with a major decision over senior Jon Aron of Walt Whitman, Wendel’s career record of 106-15 has him three shy of Grayson’s 109, and within 18 of the school record of 124 by Joseph Galeano.

Lincoln’s father, Robert, is in his third season at the helm after assisting Robert Whittles in 2020 when the Blue Devils were county tournament and Class 4A state dual meet champions.

“Grayson wrestled with more of a chip on his shoulder and Lincoln is very level-headed but also tough on top like his brother,” said Robert Wendel, a 1987 Springbrook graduate who was a county and regional runner-up. “I try not to put too much pressure on Lincoln. He does that himself and he competes with his brother. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have enjoyed coaching my sons at every level. If Lincoln can continue winning that’s great. I am really enjoying the ride.”

As a freshman, Lincoln Wendel was a county champion and regional runner-up to eventual Class 4A-3A state title winner Thomas Monn of North Hagerstown. Lincoln went 1-2 at states as a ninth-grader, finishing with a record of 35-9.

Lincoln was last year’s 160-pound county and regional runner-up as well as a fourth-place finisher at Class 4A-3A states, ending with a record of 32-6.

Lincoln lost last year’s county title bout by a point to Class 4A-3A state runner-up senior Nelson Manzoeto of Blair and was second at regions to Urbana senior Cole Kohar following a 4-2 loss.

Wendel’s 3-2 mark at states a year ago included losing his semifinal match, 3-1, to eventual champion senior Liam DeBaugh of Broadneck. Lincoln lost his third-place bout to Kohar, 3-2.

Lincoln’s state tournament victories were by first-round fall in 86 seconds, a quarterfinal pin in 3:55 over Crofton’s regional champion Jacob Speed, and a 10-3 decision over Walter Johnson’s Enzo Yamasaki.

Manzoeto and Kohar were seniors like DeBaugh, the latter finishing with a record of 41-1 after having been a state runner-up as a junior.

A year earlier in 2022 at 160 pounds, Grayson repeated as a county and regional champion before going 4-0 with three pins to win states with a record of 32-1.

Grayson had falls in 2:14 and 56 seconds in the first-round and quarterfinals, an 8-4 semifinal victory over eventual third-place finisher Jackson Cohenour of Old Mill, and a fall in 1:44 of his championship win over South River’s Austin Johnson.

Lincoln spoke to Legacy Wrestling in this Q&A regarding his chance to become a first-time regional champion and join Grayson as a repeat county and first-time state title-winner.

Legacy Wrestling: Can you reflect on your performance at states last year?

Lincoln Wendel: I was disappointed when I lost in the state semis because I came into the tournament believing that I was good enough to win it. I was the younger guy coming in, but I feel like I gave it everything that I had and that I wrestled well against pretty tough opponents. It was a great experience and I had fun.

Legacy: What are your thoughts on your last four losses to seniors while being a sophomore – twice to Cole Kuhar and once each to Nelson Manzoeto and Liam DeBaugh?

Lincoln: Against Liam DeBaugh, I would say that he had a tougher time riding me and trying to turn me from the top. He got one really nice takedown on me, but I got out on him early and he couldn’t ride me. I was getting in deep on shots. But he had really nice hips and sprawls defensively against me. Other than that, with both him and Cole Kohar, there was always a bit of a strength advantage for the guys who were older than me. Maybe they might have been a little bit bigger than me.

But I tried not to look at it that way. I also lost to Nelson Manzoeto by a point at counties. That was a similar match where I got in a few times on shots, and I couldn’t finish. He couldn't ride me or turn me, and I had a tough time riding him because he was really strong and tough.

They were all really tough, but I had a harder time taking them down. I’ve really learned a lot about myself since then, trying to improve my level as a wrestler and to use my technique to win.

Legacy: Do you credit your mental and physical improvement for your ability to wrestle up at 175 throughout the season?

Lincoln: I would say so. I probably walk around at about 172 or 174 pounds. Having gotten used to wrestling guys who are a lot bigger and stronger than I am could help me when I drop to 165 and I’m wrestling against guys who are more my size.

The weight cut will be a little challenging, but I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a strain on my body. I feel as if I’ll be more used to fighting off bigger, stronger guys rather than guys who are more my size and strength.

Legacy: How many times have you wrestled 165 pounds?

Lincoln: I went to the Springbrook tournament and wrestled at 165 and that’s the only time this season when I’ve wrestled at that weight. I felt strong. I wrestled three matches, and I had a pin, a major decision and a technical fall in the finals.

Legacy: Do you and Grayson have similar styles given he often used tilts and I’ve seen you stick the boots in?

Lincoln: I feel like I’ve always been more of a tilt guy myself, but I really mostly learned that from my brother over the years. As a freshman I would drill with him a lot and learn a lot of his tricks on top. Grayson used the tilt on guys really well.

When he would drill with me, he would really nit-pick everything, criticizing everything but really doing a nice job of teaching me how to become a better wrestler, especially on top. Grayson still comes in and works with me hard, criticizing and teaching me how to be better. I’m really thankful for that.

Legacy: Is there any pressure being the younger brother of a state champion?

Lincoln: It’s amazing to have such a great guy and a great wrestler to be so close to me and to feel so comfortable having someone to be able to work me and to coach me so effectively because he knows how I think. Grayson knows what I like to do and how I like to wrestle.

We’ve literally grown up together. He’s been watching me all of my life and I’ve watched him wrestle all of his life. There’s no better situation than to have such a great coach and someone to look up to. I see Grayson as a role model, but I would never say that to his face. [Laughs.]

Legacy: Does the all-time career victories mark of 124 seem like an attainable goal for you?

Lincoln I would love to have my name in the books [as the all-time career victories leader.] Springbrook puts its county champions on the wall in the wrestling room and the state champions in the school’s gym. I’m on the wall in the wrestling room for winning counties as a freshman. My brother also won a county championship as a sophomore.

But that’s not really something that I like to focus on. I would like to have my name remembered in that manner, but I don’t really think about it that much. I would much rather focus on the season and improve as a wrestler. I try to stay focused on looking ahead.

Legacy: What would it mean to become only the second junior to win a state title at Springbrook?

Lincoln: I want to go as far as I can, winning and staying undefeated. But I’ve got a really tough weight class throughout the county and the state. I’ve got to stay focused on wrestling to the best of my abilities one match at a time.

Springbrook’s state champs

1970: Scott Libbey

1970: Phil Waters

1976: Loren Danielson

1982: George Mitchell

2009: Nadjitade Badje

2020: Sayfore Sieh

2022: Ayden Smith

2022 Grayson Wendel

Career victories leaders:

Joseph Galeano 124

Sayfore Sieh 123

Pierre Jean 111

Carlo Galeano 110

Najitade Badje 110

Grayson Wendel 109

Lincoln Wendel 106

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