By Jim Laise - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL-History was made and almost re-made Saturday in the competitive Skyline Elite Opener wrestling event as the host Hawks had one individual champion and almost another in a tournament that was won by defending AAA state champion Robinson High School.
Twelve top teams from Virginia and West Virginia gathered for the seventh annual event and the Hawks saw 132-pounder Noah Goss take first and 160-pound Josiah Huston finish a close second in a tournament coordinated by coach Matt Keel and his staff.
A year ago, senior Justin Williams (220 pounds) was the first and only wrestler to place first for the Hawks in the history of the event. He had a 5-0 record. Williams, who went on to take a state crown in his class, did so with nothing but pins.
Goss did not pin everybody, but he did finish equally at 5-0 for the tournament, which assured each wrestler from the dozen squads at least five matches on the day and night.
Meanwhile, teammate Huston, wrestling "up" at 160 -- he is expected to go at 152 for the remainder of the season -- earned four victories in five tries, to take second in his class.
"It feels really good," said Goss, after he knocked off Franklin County's Isaiah Foster 9-1 to finish unblemished. "I'm now part of Skyline wrestling history."
Goss decisioned Washington's (W.Va.) Tyler Sigler 4-3 in the championship of round 1. Sigler was a West Virginia state Class AAA third-place finisher last year.
"That was a big deal," Keel said of his charge.
"I didn't know much about him at first, but at my first reversal, I knew it was going to be a match," said Goss. "I was trying to get him with a 'guillotine,' then I switched to a bar. Finally, I just rode him until the end."
Against Franklin's Foster in the finals of round 2, Goss said, "I had a good, low signal defense, which is my strength" for the 9-1 major decision.
Goss, wrestling with a Red, White and Blue American-flag themed headgear, paced up and down the sideline before his match with Foster, playing rap music on his head phones to psych himself up.
"I like to listen to angry music to get ready for my match. I don't like to look at my opposition until we start wrestling, because I like to think that nobody is better than me. I always believe I'm better than anybody," said the Skyline wrestler. Now a junior, Goss (45-14 in 2012-13), was a Northwestern District champion last year as a 126-pounder.
Such was the belief of Huston, also a junior and a two-time all-district selection as a 126-pound freshman and a 145-pound sophomore. Huston was wrestling at 160 for this event only.
He shut out Vito Camara, of Fauquier, 5-0, in the championship of round 2; then, was major-decisioned by Zak DePasquale, of Robinson, 16-6, in round 3.
Like Goss, Huston spent his pre-match thinking "I can beat anybody out there." But unlike, Goss, he went about it differently.
Houston did not take on DePasquale until 9:30 p.m. in an event that started with preliminary rounds at 9 a.m. on the Skyline gymnasium floor. Because there was such an expanse of time between matches, Huston kept himself centered by resting in the bleachers, though occasionally talking with friends and family until it was his turn.
"I learned that my sophomore year, because there's no sense in wearing yourself out. You can tire yourself out before the match and lose energy for your event, so I try to take it easy," said Huston, who wore knee pads and his older brother Levi's (Skyline class of 2010) singlet.
In the round 3 finals, neither Huston nor Robinson took it easy on each other. The match was stalled in the second period when DePasquale incurred a bloody nose and again in the third period when Robinson's nose had to be re-plugged to stop more bleeding. There were traces of red on both wrestlers' singlets by the end of their conflict.
DePasquale jumped on Houston early and led 14-2 at the start of the third period. At that point Huston became the aggressor.
"I was so far behind that I tried to pin him. You never want to fall far behind, but if you do, you want to do your best by coming back," Huston said.
Goss and Houston were not the only headliners for Keel's team.
Junior Justin Cornwell finished fourth at 106; senior Garrett Maddox ended sixth at 145, and senior Dustin Santmyers finished fifth at 170. Santmyers was 49-9 as a Northwestern District champ at 152 pounds last season.
"This is a good event to start the season because the competition is so keen. We re-invite the top eight finishers [teams] from the year before and then add four more to complete the field. But just because your team doesn't finish in the top eight, doesn't mean you won't get re-invited," Keel said. "The best thing about it is that everybody is guaranteed to wrestle five matches, so you can see where you are. Of course everybody wants to win, but you also like to get in five matches too."
The 12-team tournament grouped individual wrestlers into three pools based on their seeds. Therefore, there were pools of four wrestlers in a three-match round-robin. Based on how each wrestler competed within his pool, the competitors were then placed in a final pool according to their records.
Skyline finished eighth overall as a team, but with the best record of the three Northwestern District teams that competed. The Hawks ended with 217 points compared to 203 for 10th-place Millbrook and 167 for 12th-place Handley.
Skyline finished 16-1 in dual events in 2012-13, 4-0 in the Northwestern District. The Hawks ended last season as league champ, a first for the school founded in 2007. They took a second-place finish in Region II, also a first. They were 12th in the Group AA state tournament. They finished seventh among 12 teams in this event a year ago.
Competing Saturday were 6A Robinson, Colonial Forge, Battlefield and Franklin County; 5A Great Bridge; 4A Fauquier, Millbrook and Handley; 3A Skyline and private Benedictine Prep-all of Virginia.
A year ago, Colonial Forge finished third in the state; Benedictine ended similarly in its division; Fauquier was eighth, Great Bridge was 11th, Skyline was 12th and Battlefield was 13th
Also involved were Class AAA Washington and Musselman of West Virginia. Washington was fifth and Musselman eighth, respectively, in the Mountain State finals.