By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG -- Moving up a weight class this season hasn't fazed Strasburg junior Nic Campbell at all.
The two-time state champion went from 113 to 120 last year and still claimed the state title, so he's not too surprised that he's undefeated at 126 this season. However, his 26 pins in 33 matches has surprised him.
"I'm a little bit surprised that I'm doing as good as I am," Campbell said. "I knew it would be a little bit tougher year than last year. I definitely didn't know I'd be pinning people left and right."
Campbell added four more pins to his total in Saturday's Judges Invitational at Handley. He went 5-0 on the day and won the 126-pound title, helping Campbell earn The Northern Virginia Daily's Male Athlete of the Week for the week of Jan. 12-18.
In the finals, Campbell wrestled Jefferson Forest's Bret Romanzak. Campbell said the two had wrestled a few times before and the matches were usually close. Campbell raced out to a 7-0 lead and cruised to a 13-4 victory.
"It's always good to have tough competition," Campbell said. "You can't go the whole season just pinning people in the first. You always have to have a couple kids actually challenge you so you can get better. It was a good workout. It was good, overall, to see some good competition. It makes you better."
Strasburg coach Mike Wood said he'd like to see Campbell have a few tougher matches to prepare him for the state tournament.
The Rams finished fifth as a team on Saturday, despite having three wrestlers out with the flu.
The Rams also won three dual matches last week against Bishop Ireton, George Mason and their usual main district rival, Manassas Park. The Rams beat the Cougars 62-15, and Campbell said he defeated his Manassas Park opponent with a first-period pin.
"He was runner up in state at 126 last year," Campbell said of the match. "I thought it would be a tough match, and I just went out there and pinned him in the first."
Campbell said he's had quite a few first-period pins this season, and Wood said his mentality helps with that.
"He's mentally prepared every match. You don't see ups and downs with him," Wood said. "He's very physical."
Wood said Campbell was taken down for the first time this season in his match with Romanzak.
"He's probably only been taken down four or five times in his whole career," Wood said. "It shows he's well-balanced from neutral, top and bottom."
Campbell was not the only champion Strasburg had on Saturday, as Hunter Dean also won at 132 pounds.
The pair are both undefeated, and Campbell said it helps that they wrestle back-to-back.
"It's really good having Hunter [Dean] and me back-to-back because as soon as I win, it just carries onto his match," Campbell said. "It gives him that extra edge. Hunter's had some tough matches too, and I know it helps him a lot."
The Rams are 22-3 on the season, and Campbell said the team is motivated after not doing as well as they would have liked last year. The Rams couldn't field a full lineup last year, but this year that has not been a problem.
The Rams wrestle Warren County and William Monroe tonight, which should be two more very tough matches for the squad.
"Everybody wants to do better than they did last year," Campbell said. "Everybody has it in their minds to try and go undefeated the rest of the year, and try to help your team be the most successful program at Strasburg this year."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org