Sports / The Northern Virginia Daily/nvdaily.com
R-MA grapplers head to nationals
By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Imran Doraney expected a lonely trip this week to Bethlehem, Pa.
The Randolph-Macon Academy senior wrestler had qualified for the prestigious National Prep Wrestling Championships by virtue of his state runner-up finish in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) state tournament this past weekend, the only member of his team to garner an invitation by virtue a top-four finish.
Doraney's teammate, Duane Doku, just missed out with a fifth-place finish.
Or so he thought.
On Monday, Doku's coach, Frank Sullivan, got a welcome telephone call inviting Doku to participate in this week's tournament as a wild-card entry.
"Big surprise," Doku said. "I never expected to be going to nationals. I guess I'm lucky, is all I could say. When I lost my match for fourth place [at states], I was really disappointed."
Doku, an undersized heavyweight, was determined to do his part to help make Doraney's trip to Lehigh University for the national tournament a successful one, even before he found out he'd be going as well.
"I dedicated myself to try and help him and make sure he did well, at least," Doku said. "Because not only is he my wrestling partner, he's probably one of my best friends, too."
Doraney, owner of a sparkling 22-2 record in matches this season, has wrestled at 152 pounds since early January after starting the season as a 160-pounder.
Dropping that weight was always his goal, Sullivan said.
"I think 152 was a much tougher bracket and we explained that to him a couple weeks ago, but he likes a challenge," Sullivan said. "He wanted to wrestle at 152 and he did well."
Seeded third in the state tournament, Doraney topped No. 2 seed Cope Whitney from The Potomac School in the semifinals for a hard-fought decision. Doraney grabbed a five-point advantage in the first period, gave four back in the second and then rode out his opponent for the final two minutes to win.
Doraney lost on a second-period pin to St. Christopher's senior Robert Janis in the championship. Janis is seeded third overall in the National Prep tournament.
"I never really expected to do as good as I did this season," said Doraney, who is from Leesburg. "I feel like I've won against some pretty good people. This has been the hardest season I've had."
Doraney's state runner-up finish was the best by an R-MA wrestler since Kent Patton won a state championship back in 2004.
Doku has had his own struggles as an extremely light heavyweight wrestler. Doku said his natural weight is more in the 195-pound range, making this season "hell" in his battles with much heavier opponents.
"Thanks to my coaches, I was able to handle them," Doku said. "They taught me techniques and ways to get around heavyweights. They taught me to use my speed, and you know, technique always wins matches."
An eighth seed in the VISAA tournament, Doku beat the eventual fourth-place finisher before dropping a match that sent him out of the top four.
"Duane's worked so hard, he definitely deserves it," Sullivan said. "I was happy for him. I was happy he got fifth in the state, and then the icing on the cake was that call Monday morning."
The National Prep Wrestling Championships features private schools from all along the East Coast, with some wrestlers even traveling from as far as Texas to participate.
"Schools like Blair Academy, Wyoming Seminary, Kiski, McDonogh, so it's some high-quality wrestling schools," Sullivan said.
Doraney said having Doku along for the trip will help with nerves, and he's hoping to make his mark in Pennsylvania.
"I just want to place somewhere and make it to Saturday," Doraney said.
Doku, who's from Laurel, Md., is also aiming to turn some heads starting Friday.
"I really hope to place," Doku said. "I mean, I hope, but we'll see what happens."
Sullivan thinks both of his wrestlers have a chance to win some matches at the national meet.
"I would love for them to have a great experience, but I would also like to see them go there and win a couple matches," Sullivan said. "That would help set the bar for the rest of the wrestling program at R-MA. I think they understand that."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>