By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
SALEM -- For a moment, Trevor Walker wasn't sure if he had won his match.
In the final seconds of his Group AA state wrestling tournament quarterfinal match against New Kent's Devontae Fitzgerald, Walker trailed by one point. Then, with one final burst of energy, the Skyline senior pulled off a takedown, giving him what he assumed was the one-point victory as the final horn sounded.
As soon as the last whistle blew, however, controversy ensued. Did Walker get the final takedown before time ran out? The referees gathered while both coaches campaigned for their respective wrestlers. Finally, the decision came through. Two points. Walker wins.
It was that match that sent the senior to the state semifinals at the 145-pound weight class, giving him another chance to capture a state title that escaped him last season and helping the Hawks to an 11th-place AA finish at the end of Day 1 at the state wrestling championships.
"My first match I wrestled great," Walker said. "That [second] match I got caught in a tilt and had to come back. I got the escape, got the takedown in the last, maybe two seconds of the match, and pulled it out. They tried to fight it, but it was a legit takedown."
That chaotic moment was just a sample of the excitement going on in the Salem Civic Center on Friday, as single- and double-A teams from Virginia gathered for the Virginia state championships. The tournament began with more than 100 wrestlers, but at the end of Friday, the semifinal matches were set.
With Walker advancing to the semifinals for the second consecutive year, Skyline was able to remain among the top schools in the AA group. Leading them by only half a point was James Wood, which had two wrestlers advance to the semifinals. Austin Woodall won both of his matches at the 285-pound weight class, while junior Gage Swartz had two convincing wins in the 119-pound class.
"It wasn't my best performance, but it's hard with these two-a-day weigh-ins," Swartz said. "I'm just trying to keep my weight down for the next day. I was focusing on that and not my matches like I should've been. But right now it's about winning, not how you win."
Grundy High School held a comfortable lead after Day 1 with 75.5 points, eight points ahead second-place Christiansburg. Not far behind, however, were Millbrook with 37 points and Sherando with 29.5.
Both schools had two wrestlers advance to the semifinals, as Joey Jessen and Tanner Sine moved on for the Pioneers, while Baxter Newman and Nick Bakos advanced for Sherando.
In the Group A meet, Glenvar High School held the top spot with 64 points, just five points ahead of Strasburg. Clarke County, which captured its first region tournament title last weekend, had a disappointing opening day. Only 189-pounder Rob Wallace and 215-pounder Logan Large advanced to the semifinals, while Joe Nappi and Tommy Cleary fell in the second round.
"[I wrestled] not that well," Wallace said. "I mean, I could've done a lot better. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be more awake, so I don't know. We'll see."
The Rams, meanwhile, who had eight wrestlers qualify for the state tournament, saw three of them make it to the semifinals. Freshman Lance Ford coasted to the 103-pound semifinals with back-to-back pins, while Todd Dean and Colin Barnes both picked up two wins Friday in their respective weight classes.
"I'm focused," Barnes said. "I know that I got beat last weekend. It took a few days to shake that off, but I'm taking it one match at a time. I can't do anything more than that. That was regionals and this is states. This is my last chance. I have to bust everything I've got on every single match."