By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Strasburg has faced plenty of adversity this season.
Rams coach Trey Kirkland said he had several prospective wrestlers who did not come out for the team, and then the Rams suffered several injuries, which left the team short-handed for a good portion of the season.
Everything the team has went through has begun to pay off over the last few weeks, and Kirkland is hoping for the ultimate payoff at this weekend's Group A state tournament in Salem.
"We faced a lot of adversity this year," Kirkland said. "But I think that prepared us even more. I think if we wrestle to our abilities, then we should win it."
The Group A and AA state wrestling tournaments are both being held in Salem starting Friday at 9:30 a.m.
The Rams have plenty of momentum after winning the Region B title last week, and are sending an area-best eight wrestlers to the state tournament.
"[Winning the region title] was big, being in Region B -- probably the toughest region in single-A," Kirkland said. "We knew coming out if we had a lot of No. 1 and 2 seeds, that we would set ourselves up good for a run at the state title. We were hoping to have at least eight guys in the [region] finals, we came away with seven. The region tournament we had is going to be a big key at our success at states. I think we've set ourselves up good."
Strasburg's Hunter Dean (106), Nic Campbell (120), Kent Cadle (132), Todd Dean (145) and Willy Rutz (182) all won regional titles. Marco Gallagher (138) and Tyler Drummond (152) each finished second for the Rams, while Lance Ford (113) placed third.
Kirkland, the Region B Wrestling Coach of the Year, said the Rams' biggest competitors for the team state title are defending state champion Grundy, Bull Run District rival Manassas Park and Northampton.
Central and Stonewall Jackson will each have three wrestlers in the Group A tournament.
Skylar Wolf (145), Brandon Phillips (220) and Jacob Ingham (195) will represent the Falcons. Ryan Pugh (170), Mathias McCabe (160) and Patrick Kerlin (182) will represent Stonewall Jackson.
Skyline will be sending six wrestlers to the state tournament, including Region II champion Justin Williams (220).
"Justin's ranked first in the state and he's the favorite to win it," Skyline coach Matt Keel said. "I think he could take all 15 wrestlers and beat them all. At the same time I know he's not going to overlook anybody. He respects every opponent."
The Hawks have not had an individual state champion in the program's history.
Caleb VanDoren (126), Noah Goss (145), Josiah Huston (152), Dustin Santmyers (160) and Tyler Ritter (170) are also headed to the state tournament for the Hawks.
The Hawks finished tied for second in the Region II tournament, which is the best the program has ever done.
Keel said defending champion Christiansburg is the favorite, but there are several other teams that could give them a run. Keel said he's very happy with where his team is right now.
"Our goal is to be top five," Keel said. "I'm very pleased with how we've done as a team. I think the future looks bright. We've had one of the biggest JV teams, we had 23 on the team this season. So, hopefully that's a sign of good things to come."
Sherando is sending five wrestlers to the state tournament. Sherando's Jacob Guthridge (120) won the Region II title, and coach Pepper Martin feels good about his chances in the state tournament.
"He finished fourth last year, and he really trained hard in the offseason to prepare for this year," Martin said. "Since he won the region, it should give him a decent draw in the brackets and give him an excellent chance not only to place, but maybe to win the whole thing."
Martin also has high expectations for Kyle Vangel, who finished second in the region in the 138-pound class.
"From the end of last year to this year, he's worked extra hard," Martin said. "And now he's experiencing more success, and he's earned it."
Sherando is also sending Colton Simmons (132), Dan Mulaney (160) and Tyler Hamilton (195).
Martin said all the wrestlers going to the state tournament really earned it through their efforts this season.
"All five that we're sending have been our most consistent wrestlers this season," Martin said.
Warren County will have four wrestlers in the Group AA state tournament. Tyler Barisciano (106), Terrace Thompson (113), Jeff Budwash (195) and Zach Poehler (220) each advanced for the Wildcats.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org