Category Archives: Washington Post

Luis Vilca plays every game with a bullet lodged two inches from his spine

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On the Falls Church soccer field, diving is a sin. The act of feigning injury to draw a foul — or, worse, to catch a breather — is not tolerated at Paul Weber Stadium, not after what happened last summer. Even if someone truly endures a blow, teammates always bring each other to their feet with variations of the same phrase.

“Hey, Raymond got shot,” they implore. “Get up.”

Raymond is one of many nicknames for Luis Ronaldo Vilca, who also goes by “Shooter,” and not because he likes to shoot (he doesn’t). While on vacation to visit family in Lima, Peru last July, Vilca survived a gunshot wound to the stomach, not to mention the ensuing 16-hour wait in the hospital before undergoing surgery. The senior has since overcome incidental nerve damage in his leg and earned his way back into the Falls Church starting lineup, reprising his role as the tenacious defensive midfielder on a talented Jaguars squad bent on forging another playoff run next month.

“The team didn’t just gain another player,” Falls Church assistant coach Cristian Alvarado said. “They gained a brother back.” Continue reading Luis Vilca plays every game with a bullet lodged two inches from his spine

John Wall makes ailing young Wizards fan’s wish come true

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Niyear Perez couldn’t stop smiling. Not only was John Wall’s name gracing the back of the 13-year-old’s brand-new Wizards jersey, his NBA idol was literally at his back, signing that jersey and chatting with the young visitor as part of the Make-a-Wish Mid-Atlantic event before Sunday’s game against the Orlando Magic at Verizon Center.

Niyear had a chronic kidney disease diagnosed in October 2015 and spent the following two months in the intensive care unit at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. He has been in and out of the hospital since then and currently is on a list to receive a renal transplant. While he waits for a new kidney, he endures three-hour dialysis sessions three times per week.

But as Niyear scampered through the player tunnel during Sunday’s starting-lineup introductions, Wizards fans simply saw a normal-looking kid with an extraordinary opportunity.

“He’s going to do anything he has to to be out there with them,” said his grandmother, Virginia Robinson. Continue reading John Wall makes ailing young Wizards fan’s wish come true

His family fled the Taliban. Now he’s one of Virginia’s most feared wrestlers.

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There is an Arabic expression that transcends life’s daily trials, a phrase Zaki Mohsin invokes every day. Its meaning is “God willing,” but its power lies in something more self-reliant — that a little resilience today will yield greater outcomes tomorrow.

Inshallah.

Mohsin muttered it upon waking each morning at 3:30 to pray in his family’s 15-person citrus home on the western edge of Kabul. He whispered it before earning accolades across Asia as a rising star in the sport of judo. And he repeated it as his family spent a frantic two weeks uprooting their lives and fleeing Afghanistan, putting Mohsin’s dream of an Olympic gold medal on hold. Continue reading His family fled the Taliban. Now he’s one of Virginia’s most feared wrestlers.

How an accomplished college hoops coach landed at a tiny private school in rural Virginia

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THE PLAINS, Va. — Butterflies surge through the old coach’s 6-foot-5 frame as he ducks into Activities Bus No. 2, a white, 14-passenger GMC van idling at the top of a steep and winding road. His teenage players file in giggling, their heads buried in their phones, their minds too preoccupied to dwell on the game three hours away.

At last, Joe Harrington wraps his right hand around the gear shift and his left around the steering wheel, the red-and-gold marker of an ACC championship reflecting from his ring finger onto the windshield. At Maryland he used to board a charter bus that cruised to the airport with a police escort in tow. At Wakefield School, Harrington drives the bus.

A former Boston Celtics draft pick after his playing days with the Terrapins, Harrington crisscrossed the country as a head coach at four Division I schools and as an assistant for the Toronto Raptors. He mentored the likes of Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chauncey Billups. He chased rebounds as an 11-year-old Stephen Curry — the son of former Raptor Dell Curry — heaved three-pointers before games at Air Canada Centre.

This season Harrington, 71, is immersed in the unfamiliar realm of high school basketball. At 13-2, his Wakefield Fighting Owls have matched the best start in school history. And their sophomore-laden roster is doing it on a remote, 63-acre campus 60 miles west of where Harrington’s career took flight as the right-hand man for Lefty Driesell, the legendary former Maryland coach.

“We actually don’t know how he came here,” Wakefield senior forward Colby Weeks said. “That’s somewhat of a mystery to us.” Continue reading How an accomplished college hoops coach landed at a tiny private school in rural Virginia

Olympic champ Kyle Snyder returns to high school gym to wrestle for Ohio State

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Kyle Snyder stood in the corner of Good Counsel High’s gym Sunday afternoon and waited to reacquaint himself with the launchpad of his sparkling wrestling career. The navy-and-gold center mat looked exactly the same as he had left it in 2013, but everything that has happened since — a world championship, an NCAA title, an Olympic gold medal — rendered this an entirely different spectacle altogether.

For starters, Snyder was no longer sporting his high school’s colors. The burly 21-year-old donned a black Ohio State warmup pullover as he prepared for a home dual meet roughly 405 miles off campus. The unusual showdown — held just 15 miles from College Park — was the result of a recruiting pitch from Ohio State Coach Tom Ryan, who promised Snyder a home meet at his old high school at some point before he graduated.

Snyder, a junior, paced the warmup mat, but he wasn’t getting loose for his upcoming heavyweight bout just yet. Instead, he was signing hats and T-shirts for giddy children as parents leaned back to take pictures. A sold-out crowd of 1,200 spectators filled the bleachers on either side.

“It’s nuts,” Snyder mumbled as he scrawled his name across another hat’s bill. Continue reading Olympic champ Kyle Snyder returns to high school gym to wrestle for Ohio State

Freshman Mamadi Diakite, No. 8 Virginia take care of Yale, 62-38

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Yale center Sam Downey thought he was about to end the drought. With his team’s deficit ballooning into double digits, Downey rose for a routine layup that would have registered the Bulldogs’ first points in a five-minute span against No. 8 Virginia on Sunday afternoon.

He didn’t see Mamadi Diakite flying across the baseline. Virginia’s spring-loaded freshman soared above the rim to pin Downey’s attempt against the glass and keep Yale’s scoreless misery going for another three minutes midway through the second half.

“The team needed me to step up and block more shots,” said Diakite, who finished with four blocks and five points. “That is what I did.”

The Cavaliers’ eight-minute defensive stand propelled them to a 62-38 victory before 14,242 at John Paul Jones Arena. Eight players filled the scoring column for Virginia (3-0), but it was Diakite’s defensive prowess that brought the crowd to its feet. Continue reading Freshman Mamadi Diakite, No. 8 Virginia take care of Yale, 62-38

Maryland men’s soccer keeps unbeaten streak alive in Big Ten tournament debut

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Rejuvenated from injuries and illnesses, rested from a much-needed week off, the top-ranked Maryland men’s soccer team hoped Sunday’s game against Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals would play out much differently than last week’s last-gasp struggle against the Wolverines.

It ended up being a near-replica.

Reserve midfielder George Campbell scored just under three minutes into the second sudden-death overtime period to lift Maryland to a 3-2 victory at Ludwig Field. The result extended the top-seeded Terrapins’ winning streak to 13 games and vaulted them into Friday’s semifinal against Michigan State. Continue reading Maryland men’s soccer keeps unbeaten streak alive in Big Ten tournament debut