By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The Sherando High School wrestling team put itself in contention for a top-three finish after Wednesday's first round of the Willie Walters/Jaye Copp Holiday Tournament.
The Warriors placed an area-best five wrestlers in today's championship semifinal round of the two-day, 16-team, bracket tournament at James Wood High School.
Stafford leads with 84 team points. Rounding out the top five are Potomac Falls (77), Sherando (67), Stonewall Jackson (Manassas) (66), and Turner Ashby (64). Of the remaining three area schools, James Wood is eighth (53), Skyline 13th (35), and Handley 14th (33).
"I'm pleased with how we did today," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "It's going to be difficult for us to compete for a title in a field of this caliber. We're just trying to show some progress as the season goes along. So far the results have been kind of mixed."
One of those positive results came from Zach Fletcher on Wednesday afternoon. The 160-pound senior won both of his matches, including a 5-2 decision over James Wood's Cory Schrock in the quarterfinals. Fletcher, who has battled injuries throughout much of his career and wrestles with a metal rod in his leg, scored three near-fall points in the last 10 seconds to decide a match that seemed destined for overtime.
After giving up a late first-period takedown, Fletcher recorded an early reversal in the second period and rode Schrock for most of two periods.
"Zach pulled off a win against a real tough kid in Cory," Martin said. "They tried a switch there at the end and got a little sloppy with it. Zach felt it coming and was able to counter and get him on his back."
Colonels coach Greg Walker didn't believe Fletcher initiated enough offensive action from the top, but he also admitted that Schrock had his chances.
"It was his match to win," Walker said of Schrock, who competed in the prestigious Beast of the East tournament earlier this month. "We took bottom in the third period because it's easier to score from there than it is on top."
Joining Fletcher in the championship semifinals from Sherando are Jacob Guthridge (103), Brandon Fletcher (125), Dan Mullaney (130), and B.J. Askew (285). James Wood and Skyline both put three in the semifinals. The Colonels have Taylor Swartz (103), Cody Landis (125), and Mark Bean (189), who had two first-period pins on Wednesday. Skyline's semifinal contingent includes Billy Maddox (112), Joe Bass (140), and Justin Williams (189). The Hawks, who graduated nine seniors last year, brought only six wrestlers to the tournament.
"We brought six and have three in the semis. That's not a bad percentage," Hawks coach Matt Keel said. "If it had been a dual tournament we would have fielded a full team. But we have so many young kids, and I wanted to save some of their matches for JV."
With one semifinalist, Tom Delaney (145), Handley is already assured of at least one place-winner, something the Judges failed to do at last season's tournament.
"We're learning," Handley first-year coach David Scott said. "It's tough for us as a team to compete, but this tournament is a real good gauge for our top wrestlers to see where they are."
This morning's championship semifinals are slated to begin at 9:30 a.m.