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Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Gevorg Arakelov stands in his coach's office in front of the wrestling team medals, many of which he won himself.

High school athletes often hear about the legends who came before them and defined the school’s greatness in a given sport, but at Maspeth High School that legend is playing out in real time for the wrestling team.

Gevorg Arakelov, a senior and four-year member of the Argonauts wrestling team, became the team’s first-ever winner of the City Championship on Feb. 11 and will represent his school at the State Championship tournament in Albany, New York, on Feb. 22 and 23. Even though wrestlers take to the mat alone against their opponents, Arakelov said that he has always wanted to be a role model for his teammates.

“You always want to leave your footsteps so someone else can follow them,” Arakelov said. “I always try to lead by example and try helping the team, and my coach is always there for me, so anything I do he always supports me.”

Arakelov was crowned city champion for the 170 pound division after winning a close match against the second-ranked wrestler in the tournament. Early in the match, Arakelov said he was being too defensive and surrendered a point to his opponent after being penalized for stalling. He described his opponent as “slick” and a good offensive wrestler, but as time was running out Arakelov knew he didn’t want the match to go into overtime, he said.

His coach, Daniel Sepulveda, told him to get lower and attack his opponent’s legs, and that strategy got Arakelov four quick points. With a 5-1 lead, Arakelov was able to hold that same score until the end. When it was all over, the emotions of the moment hit them.

“We got teary eyed and we shared a moment just because it means so much,” said Sepulveda, who began coaching the wrestling team when Arakelov was a freshman. “For a coach, their relationship with their star player is something special that you can’t really compare to.”

It capped off a spectacular season for Arakelov, who compiled a 35-4 record and also became the first Maspeth High School wrestler to win the Mayor’s Cup title in January. Throughout his four-year career, Arakelov didn’t lose a single match by getting pinned, Sepulveda said.

Although he was first exposed to wrestling at school, Arakelov attributes much of his success to what he learned from other coaches and trainers in the offseason. Shortly after he first picked up the sport, Arakelov got involved with a non-profit organization called Beat the Streets, which uses wrestling to teach teenagers the values of personal responsibility, physical fitness, education and teamwork. His coaches there, Penn Gottfried and Mark Anthony, were crucial to his development on and off the mat, Arakelov said.

Over the next few years, the lessons Arakelov brought back to the school would rub off on his coach and his teammates. Sepulveda said the bond he was able to form with Arakelov and a few of his senior teammates over the course of their careers has become the foundation for the Maspeth High wrestling program. Fellow senior and training partner Michael Elmoznino said there will be nothing better than seeing his best friend compete for a state title.

“We have been through every little thing together,” Elmoznino said. “With this sport you kind of learn the true meaning of the actual word ‘brotherhood.'”

As he prepares for the state championship tournament, Arakelov said he is mostly focused on his conditioning and going to the gym to get as strong as he can. The wrestlers from upstate New York are much more physical because many of them started training long before high school, Arakelov said. The city champion just sees that as the next challenge.

“It’s going to be an honor to represent Maspeth,” Arakelov said. “People work to get it for like eight years, and the fact that I’m going to start since freshman year in high school and I’m going to get it now, it’s going to be a big accomplishment.”

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