Sports / The Northern Virginia Daily/nvdaily.com
Ram trio win state titles: Dean, Campbell, Cadle lead team to second place
By Brad Fauber
SALEM -- Hunter Dean knows what it feels like to fall just short in the Group A state wrestling tournament.
The Strasburg sophomore finished as the runner-up in last year's Group A tournament in the 106-pound class as a freshman, and he said it was a feeling he wanted to forget.
"That feeling is so bad you just don't want it to happen again," Dean said.
Dean made sure that feeling of disappointment became just a distant memory on Saturday, as the sophomore finished a dominating run through this year's Group A tournament at Salem Civic Center with a convincing 12-3 major decision win over Nottoway's Josh Lafferty in the 106-pound championship match.
The state title victory capped a stellar 51-1 season for the sophomore, who said his push for redemption powered his performance throughout the 2012-13 season.
"It's surreal. It felt a lot better than last year," Dean said shortly after claiming the 106-pound title. "... to go out losing in the last match just wasn't going to happen again. The first part of the season I was working hard just because I wanted to win [a state title], but as it got closer I was more trying to win it because I didn't want to feel that feeling again."
Dean was one of three Strasburg wrestlers to win state titles on Saturday, as he was joined by teammates Kent Cadle and Nic Campbell, both of whom won their second state championships.
The three championship performances helped the Rams finish as the runner-up in the final team standings with 128 points. Grundy claimed the team title for the second year in a row with 143 points, and Manassas Park was third with 121 points.
"Sending three, that was kind of what we expected, and we knew all three of them could win, but I thought they wrestled probably to the best of their ability," Rams coach Trey Kirkland said. "I thought the three finalists came to wrestle today and it showed. We can walk away tonight and be happy."
Dean got the Rams started off right with his win in the opening match of the championship round, and one match later, Campbell was on the mat seeking to win his second straight state championship.
Campbell, last season's 113-pound champion, bumped up to 120-pounds this season and didn't miss a beat. The sophomore went 35-0 this season, capping the undefeated run with a 7-1 victory over Manassas Park's Gilbert Rodriguez in the title match.
Campbell said winning the title this season feels even better than it did a year ago.
"It's more exciting because I'm just one step closer to being the first ever four-time [champion] at Strasburg High School," Campbell said. "That's been my goal since eighth grade. From freshman year to this year I've worked extremely hard and I just knew that it would pay off eventually. I just couldn't ask for a better feeling or a better outcome than this."
Campbell, who had already beaten Rodriguez three times this season prior to Saturday's championship match, said his familiarity with his opponent helped him claim the victory.
Cadle had no such benefit in his 132-pound match with Grundy's Trey Smith, and Cadle admitted he was a little nervous prior to his bout with the defending 138-pound champion.
Still, Cadle was able to take a 5-1 lead midway through the second period before the senior slowed down the pace and held on for a 5-3 win.
Cadle, who transferred to Strasburg from Manassas Park this season, won the 126-pound title as a sophomore. Last year, Cadle finished third in the state tournament, and he said his goal was to end his senior season with another state championship.
"It's a great feeling. I'm thankful for Trey [Kirkland] getting me back on top of the podium. I want to thank him most," Cadle said. "I started doing his offseason program in March about a month after I lost in the state tournament, and ever since then it's been my goal to get back on top of the podium. That's where I got today."
Stonewall Jackson's Ryan Pugh also wanted to end his senior season on a high note, although his final state tournament got off to a rocky start with an 8-7 loss to Patrick Henry's Jordan Dennison in Friday's opening round in the 170-pound class.
But Pugh was able to shake off the early stumble. He won the rest of his matches in the tournament and redeemed his early-round loss with an 8-6 overtime win over Dennison in a rematch for third place on Saturday.
"I was satisfied with the fact that I came back," Pugh said. "Obviously, I wasn't very happy with losing my first match of the meet, but I'm proud that I was able to overcome that adversity and fight my way back into third place."
Pugh was one of two Generals to appear in the state tournament, and teammate Joseph McCabe finished fifth in the 160-pound class.
Central sent three wrestlers to the tournament, and Brandon Phillips (220) and Skylar Wolf (145) finished in sixth and seventh place, respectively.
Strasburg sent a total of eight wrestlers, with Willie Rutz (182, third) and Todd Dean (145, fifth) also turning in solid tournaments for the Rams.
Kirkland said the future of Strasburg wrestling remains bright, especially with the return of both Hunter Dean and Campbell.
"We've got those two returning, we've got a handful of other guys returning that I think will make an impact. I think we've got a couple more state champs that haven't shown up yet," Kirkland said. "I don't know that we can win [the state title] next year, but we're not going to lower the standards. That's going to be our goal from here on out. I think we've got the firepower to do it and we're going to train with every intention of coming back down and winning next year."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org