Wrestlers celebrate 100 wins


Courtesy of Wrestling Coach Alan Paul

Senior John Perdue celebrates his 100th wrestling win with coaches.

Arjun Maitra and Natasha Janssens

Sebastian Jimenez (‘21) was wrestling in the finals of the Doc Hess Tournament when he suddenly heard his ankle pop. Suspecting a sprain, he moved to the sidelines, where Head Coach Alan Paul gave him the option to forfeit. Jimenez decided to go back to the mat and went on to win—it was his 100th career victory for the Mavericks.

“I was so full of adrenaline that I didn’t feel much pain in my ankle on the mat,” Jimenez said. “After the match, the coaches came with big balloons and draped me with fun gold bling to celebrate.”

Paul, with his coaching staff, led the Maverick wrestlers to their eighth SPC championship and fifth Texas Prep State victory this past winter. Eight wrestlers in the history of the program have  recorded at least 100 wins in their careers. 

The Review spoke with three of these wrestlers: Yo Akiyama (‘16), Sebastian Jimenez and senior John Perdue. While all three athletes recognize their 100th win to be a notable milestone on the wrestling mat, they consider the resilience they learned in their training and the team camaraderie as the most memorable aspects of their high school wrestling careers.  

Although wrestlers compete individually, Paul emphasized that teammates play an essential role in a wrestler’s performance. 

“The matches are extremely intense and physically draining,” Paul said. “Hearing your teammates cheering for you encourages you to not give up, especially if you are down on your back.”

Perdue notched up his 100th win at the Doc Hess tournament last December and recently earned his second All-American honors at the Prep Nationals in Maryland. Perdue, who was the Mavericks football quarterback during Fall 2021, feels that the wrestling training is more intense on the body than his football practices. Daily practice for wrestling typically involved 45 minutes of non-stop conditioning.

“The sheer physical demand of these sessions infused a strong bond in the team,” Perdue said. “It is simply grueling, and you can’t get through it unless you are doing it with your teammates.”

Paul believes that unlike some sports where physical stature and natural speed might form a ceiling for an athlete’s success, these intrinsic factors play a lesser role in wrestlers’ abilities. 

 “A wrestler sets his own ceiling by deciding how much time and work he puts in,” Paul said. “You determine how good you’re going to be, and you can work towards becoming this.”

Yo Akiyama (‘16) was the first wrestler to ever record 100 wins in Maverick history. Akiyama continued to wrestle for four years at Williams College and now competes in senior level freestyle tournaments as part of the Purple Valley Wrestling Club.  He feels his wrestling training at St John’s played a role in shaping his work ethic in the long run. 

It made me comfortable in pushing myself beyond what I would initially perceive as my limit.” Akiyama said. “This work ethic carries over to everything else I do now.”

Akiyama feels that while wrestling is an individual sport at its core, his team played an integral role in his training.

“I was the only senior wrestler on my team,” Akiyama said. “The younger teammates really encouraged me to persist in my training, even on weekends and during holidays.”

Senior Zoe Hirshfeld, the team manager, traveled with the team this season and sensed a strong familial bond among the wrestlers. 

“Many of these wrestlers formed bonds when they competed together in middle school,” Hirshfeld said. “Some even started as Alpha Pups, the wrestling club for young kids hosted by the Maverick coaches.”

Jimenez, who started competing for St. John’s in Middle School, currently wrestles for Duke University. He feels that collegiate wrestling is much more “businesslike” and not as personal as his high school experience. 

“For example, at St. John’s, the coaches made sure we wore the same gear and neatly lined up our bags before practice,” Jimenez said. “I now realize these little rules taught us to function as a whole team and not as disparate athletes.”

“The overarching code for a Maverick wrestler is that all the accolades, all the championship wins and any successful student-athlete recruitment is a result of all our combined efforts,” Jimenez said.

Yo Akiyama (‘16), Josh Thomas (‘17), Peter Chen (‘18), Layo Laniyan (‘18), Harrison Fernelius (‘19), Thomas Grannen (‘20), Sebastian Jimenez (‘21) and John Perdue (‘22) each have more than 100 wins as Maverick wrestlers. Michael Daichman and Ken Matsunaga (both ‘21) will be included in the 100 wins wrestlers group since they had close to 100 wins amidst a canceled wrestling season in 2020.