By Jim Laise - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL- Pity poor Zach Beckner, but not too much.
The 106-pound wrestler was one of three straight Warren County Wildcats to claim his weight division championship in the school's annual invitational, but as usual, the feisty sophomore had to overcome some ills to get the job done.
"I feel like my body is breaking down on me," the sophomore said Saturday night with a trace of a smile.
Beckner at 106; Tyler Barisciano at 113 and Terrance Thompson at 120 started off the championship flight for coach Matt Wadas, as Warren finished runner-up to cross-town rival Skyline for the team championship.
The Hawks, based on depth throughout their lineup, scored a resounding 214 points to the Wildcats' 183.50; third-place C.D. Hylton's 181.50; fourth place Woodgrove's 134 and fifth place Loudoun Valley, which tallied 131 points.
"I like to see the champions," Skyline coach Matt Keel said. "but it was nice to see some of our other guys score some points in the preliminaries. Ronnie Clifton [at 285] finished third; Robert Presley came in there and finished fourth [at 120]. Billy Sperry was in there at fourth [at 114] and Caleb Van Doren [runner-up at 138] beat a guy who beat him to get to the championship round."
Josiah Huston won the championship at 152 and Dustin Santmyers followed suit at 160 for Keel.
It was the second major team title for the streaking Hawks, who already claimed a championship in their own Appalachian Duals earlier in the season. The two Front Royal powers will meet again Saturday in the Conference 28 duals at the Skyline gymnasium. The match was originally scheduled for Central. The Falcons finished 11th among 12 varsity teams here (66.50 points), earning one third; a fourth and two sixths.
The first four individuals in each weight class medaled, but the top six earned points for their team.
"The first three [Beckner, Barisciano and Thompson] performed outstandingly," Wadas said. "We certainly haven't done that recently and it shows the hard work that all of these guys have put in. The team did well. Our upper-weights are young, but they're determined. We have a lot of work to do."
Wadas praised Beckner because the wrestler used last season, in part, to go 3-0 on the day, 19-0 this season and 36-0, according to Beckner, for his career.
"He and our 113 [Barisciano] both wrestled at 106 last year and Tyler beat him out. But Zach took that and used it this year to claim his spot at 106. He's done a good job," Wadas said.
The wrestler-cross-country runner's litany of injuries began toward the end of the cross-country season last fall when he suffered a torn toenail prior to the conference meet and then had to run through a burned thigh suffered in a cooking accident. In the regional, Beckner tripped coming out of the gate, then was trampled near the starting line of the race when he inadvertently fell to the ground.
He still finished well in both competitions. With a new toenail and a nasty scar from the burn, he has been wrestling so far this year with a nicked ankle and knee, which he encased with a pad.
Still, the gnarly 105 pounder major-decisioned Cliff Conway of the Courtland B team in the championship, after serving D.J. Ahalt of Courtland with a technical fall (18-1), and dropped Brett Binnix of the Warren County B squad, 16-0, in earlier rounds.
"I was obviously pumped," Beckner said. "I was kind of nervous, but as the day went on and I scouted [opponents'] records, I felt more comfortable. I wore them down in the third period, and I think my endurance comes from cross country."
Beckner said he relies on his coaches for motivation and doesn't worry about keeping his unblemished record alive.
"I'm just thinking about taking it one match at a time. I focus on one match and what's exciting is when I think I have a tough opponent; that's what makes it exciting. The crowd really gets into it and you can pretty much block everything out," he said.
Thompson, a senior, finished 3-0 on the day. He is 20-0 this season and says he's 105-22 lifetime.
"I'm always confident," said the champ, who won, 15-0, on a technical fall over Loudoun Valley's Derek Raschild in the championship round. "My motto is to treat every match as if it's my last. If I do that, I'm more intense."
Thompson said he adopted the idea last year at the VHSL Group AA championships, when he finished seventh.
"I was tired of losing," he said. "I lost a match then I won a match, then I lost a match, then I won a match. I didn't want to go through that again."
Thompson major-decisioned Skyline's Presley, 15-1, and won a fall from Hylton's Hunter Godin in his earlier work of the day-long event.
Huston ran his record to 3-0; 20-4 this season and what he said was 80-34 overall as he earned Skyline's initial first-place finish of the evening. The junior decisioned Jake David of Woodgrove, 9-3, after earning a major decision from Briarwood's Todd Craig, 10-0, and a technical fall from Western Albemarle's Sean Sawyer, 15-0, in earlier matches.
Huston believes discipline is one of the reasons he has been productive this year at 152, and that goes for on and off the mat.
"I like to think I work harder than anybody, and that's not just wrestling, but taking care of myself in between matches, getting enough rest, staying away from injuries -- that sort of thing," Huston said.
He eschewed a chance to "snow-board down a mountain" during the week in order to keep at operating strength.
"Once the season's over, I'll still get my wrestling in; but I can do other things then too," Huston said.
Dustin Santmyers (3-0, 21-2 in 2013-14) was the other Hawk individual champion. He knocked off Woodgrove's Joe LaRock on a technical fall, 17-1, in the title round. Earlier, he decisioned Hylton's Jake Ward, 7-3, and took a fall from Clarke County's Matt Cleary in his first work of the day.
A highlight for the senior was that he was wrestling live before his paternal grandfather, Donald Santmyers of Front Royal, for the first time this season.
Wadas, who served as tournament director, was pleased with the event, which started an hour late because of early-morning freezing conditions.
"We started late and we had to trim down some stuff because I didn't want everybody leaving here at midnight. With that in mind, I thought it went smoothly and the reason is because of the staff who runs it and the wrestlers and their coaches who came here," he said.