By Jeff Nations
Strasburg's Nic Campbell didn't feel any undue pressure during Wednesday's home quad wrestling match.
After the Rams' first match of the night against Bull Run District rival Clarke County, Campbell took his place at the end of a line of former Strasburg state wrestling champions. Campbell was the 21st and last man in that line, which stretched nearly the length of the basketball court, as the school combined its annual Senior Night celebration with a ceremony recognizing all those former champions.
All those former champions, by the way, who were there watching Campbell's every move.
Pressure? What pressure?
"It was pretty good, being the last state champion and seeing all those older guys and seeing how long it's been since we've had our first state champion," Campbell said. "It felt good to be part of the state champions and Strasburg history."
Campbell did his part to make his fellow state champions proud, going 3-0 to help the Rams sweep through the competition.
Strasburg opened with a tough 52-30 victory over fellow Bull Run District rival Clarke County, then took down district foe William Monroe for a 46-36 win before wrapping up with an easy 57-6 drubbing of outmanned Moorefield (W.Va.).
The Rams went 18-3 combined in individual matches.
"Tonight we lost three individual matches total, and last Saturday [at the Strasburg Duals] I believe we lost 10 individual matches out of our five duals," Strasburg coach Trey Kirkland said. "We're averaging one to two losses a dual match, but our matches are still close because of all the forfeits we're giving up. We know going in that we don't have much room to play."
The Rams forfeited four weight classes against the Eagles and got two back in Clarke County forfeits, and pulled away with help from the top of the lineup. After Hunter Dean tied it at 30 by pinning Cody Schneeman at 106 pounds, Lance Ford gave the Rams the lead for good with a technical fall victory (18-2) over Clarke County's Sean Erisman. Campbell followed with another tech fall victory at 120, and Kent Cadle scored a third-period pin with just seven seconds to go against Brandon Hutchinson to close out the match.
Cadle, his thumb heavily bandaged, had a grueling night on the mat as his opponents zeroed in on the injury. Cadle said he jammed the thumb while practicing with Campbell on Tuesday -- his teammate landed on it.
"It's feeling better, I guess," Cadle said. "It's not broken -- it's just a little jammed up and bleeding below the nail area. It's nothing too serious. I think I'll be fine."
Cadle had to protect that thumb in his match against William Monroe's Mike Kleine and again when he faced Moorefield's Bryant Ketterman. Incensed by what he thought was a deliberate effort to injure him further in both those matches, Cadle countered by wrestling more aggressively than usual. He pinned Kleine in 4:20, and did the same to Ketterman in 2:45.
"The last two matches, it was like their only job was to go out there and try to hurt my thumb," said Cadle, who didn't get a spot in Strasburg's championship line because he won his state title two years ago while at Manassas Park. "It didn't even look like they were trying to wrestle me -- just trying to create as much pain for me as possible."
Trailing William Monroe 36-12, the Rams again got going when the top of the lineup hit the mat. Hunter Dean and Ford scored back-to-back pins and the Rams picked up a forfeit win to pull within 36-30. Kirkland opted to bump up Campbell to 126 to face a tough opponent in Kyle Biesecker.
"We knew it was going to be tough, but we had faith in Nic to pull off the win," Kirkland said.
Campbell led just 2-1 at the end of the first period, then pushed ahead 5-2 entering the final two minutes. He dominated from there to earn an 11-2 major decision.
Cadle followed with his pin of Kleine to put the Rams ahead for good.
The Rams had little trouble with the winless Yellow Jackets in the finale to lock up the sweep.
Afterward, Cadle and Campbell could compare ghastly injuries. In addition to the bandaged thumb, Cadle sported a head bandage -- a result of cuts he received winning his 100th career match last week. Campbell was limping after aggravating a gash in his knee -- the result of a sledding mishap.
"It's a little bit tender," Campbell said. "It opened up a little bit more tonight. It was scabbing over, but it opened right back up. I don't need stitches anymore, so I should be good."
In addition to Campbell and Cadle, other Rams wrestlers who went 3-0 included Ford, Marco Gallagher (138) and Tyler Drummond (152 and 160). Hunter Dean won both his matches at 106 and Todd Dean (145) won his only match.
"The whole attitude and mentality like the guys had tonight is better than it has been all year," Kirkland said. "I think we're making the right gains and progressions throughout the season."
In other matches Wednesday, William Monroe beat Moorefield (64-15) and Clarke County (39-33). Clarke topped Moorefield, 58-6.
Kirkland hoped his team was ready to put on a show in front of that illustrious crowd.
"I made sure to tell them that before the match," Kirkland said. "Bringing back all these guys back who had wrestled at the highest level, it's not a good night to have a bad night.
" ... Even for me, it was really surprising to see that many. You know, you can read it on paper, but to see that many state champs line up I know it had to give our guys a little bit of extra motivation."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>