By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- While area high schools were far from dominant in Thursday's final day of the Willie Walters/Jaye Copp Holiday Tournament, they did manage to produce three individual champions and the Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Host James Wood got titles from 103-pound sophomore Taylor Swartz and 125-pound senior Cody Landis to finish an area-best fifth in the two-day, 17-team tournament named in honor of two legendary Colonels wrestling coaches. Also capturing a title was Skyline junior Joe Bass (140).
Oddly, Stafford cruised to the team championship with three finalists and no individual champion. The Group AAA Indians amassed their 199.5 points by demonstrating tremendous depth. Twelve of Stafford's 14 wrestlers placed among the top six in their weight class.
"Wrestling is an individual sport, but it's done within a team concept," Indians co-coach Dan Gilbert said. "Everybody contributed. We kept telling the kids who lost early that they had to come back and get points for us. That's where the team concept comes into place."
Berkeley Springs, W.Va., which produced a tournament-best six finalists and four champions, took second place with 164.5 points. Rounding out the top five were Turner Ashby (130.5), Stonewall Jackson (127), and James Wood (123) and Musselman (123). Sherando placed seventh (120.5), Skyline was 12th (58), and Handley finished 13th (54).
In a selection by tournament referees, Landis earned MVP honors. After a strong performance in the semifinals in which he pinned Sherando's Brandon Fletcher in the second period, Landis found himself deadlocked with Loudoun County's Tyler Anthony until the final 30 seconds of the 125-pound final.
With the match tied 2-2, Landis countered an Anthony move, took advantage of an opportunity, and pinned the Raider senior with a headlock at the 5:38 mark.
"It was more of a case of being in the right place at the right time," Colonels coach Greg Walker said. "It was just one of those freak things. It was there and he took advantage of it."
Landis, who Walker believes has the potential to be among the state's best in his weight class, knew that that he hadn't wrestled the way he had hoped up to that point. He was looking to make amends and finally got the chance.
"I wasn't taking my shots and being as aggressive as I should have been," said Landis, who had pins in all three of his tournament matches. "I have those days."
Swartz got the championship round started when he decisioned Sherando's Jacob Guthridge 4-0 in the only finals matchup of area wrestlers. In the process, Swartz bettered his own runner-up finish of a year ago as well as that of his older brother Gage, a 2010 Group AA state champion.
"Sure, there's that sibling rivalry, and I always try to one-up him," Swartz said. "But whenever I need help, he's always there for me."
Bass needed some extra work to capture his first tournament title for the Hawks. Bass and Loudoun County's A.J. Pittas were tied 2-2 after regulation. In the one-minute, sudden-death overtime period, Bass recorded a takedown near the edge of the circle and just before the buzzer. At first, the takedown was not awarded, but after the two referees conferred, Bass got the points and the victory.
"That's why they run two referees," Skyline coach Matt Keel said. "I'm not a ref and I don't want to be. It's a tough job. I think after they talked it over they made the right call."
For Bass, the whole experience can do nothing but help him as he hopes to improve on last year's fourth-place finish in the Northwestern District tournament.
"It helps me know that if I get into this situation again that I can pull it out," he said.
Sherando, third after Wednesday's action, dropped despite having an area-best seven place-winners. The Warriors had two wrestlers in the championship finals and consolation finals and went a combined 0-for-4 in the championship finals and consolation finals and went a combined 0-for-4 in those matches.
Finishing second for the Warriors were Guthridge and Zach Fletcher (160).
"We just need to develop a little more depth," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "We didn't have a 140-pounder in the tournament and had four who didn't score a point. Between now and district tournament time we have to get more kids to place."
Other top local finishers included James Wood's Cory Schrock (third at 160), Sherando's Brandon Fletcher (fourth at 125) and B.J. Askew (fourth at 285), Handley's Tom Delaney (fourth at 145), and Skyline's Justin Williams (fourth at 189).
The rest of the individual champions included Ryan Diehl of Berkeley Springs (112), Kody Kernan of Musselman (119), Luke Kiser of Turner Ashby (130), Tyler Brown of Stonewall Jackson (135), Cody Spinks of Musselman (145), Damen Capper of Berkeley Springs (152), Kenton Perez of Loudoun County (160), Jake Liskey of Turner Ashby (171), Tory Bennett of Berkeley Springs (189), Rob Clannigan of Stonewall Jackson (215), and Hobert Delph of Berkeley Springs (285).