By Jim Laise firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER-Strasburg had a few holes in its lineup Saturday, but playing "David" to most other teams' "Goliath" is nothing new to the 2A school. The Rams seem to thrive on heady competition.
"We had a few people out with the flu and if they were getting to the point where they were almost over it, I decided to rest them for [this] week's dual at home with William Monroe," said Strasburg wrestling coach Mike Wood.
Those missing at the 17-team Judges Invitational at Handley High School were 145-pound Marco Gallagher, 220 pounder Trey Mills and 285-pound Thayer Norris.
Even without them, the Rams finished a respectable fifth with 335 points behind winner Handley (405), runner-up Warren County (373.5), third place Woodgrove (342) and fourth finisher John Champe (341).
Locally, Stonewall Jackson finished 14th (169.5) and Central was right behind at 15th (161.5).
The Wildcats were coming off a 52-16 victory over Rappahannock last Thursday and a 4-1 finish in the Conference 28 duals Jan. 11. It has been an outstanding season for the coach Matt Wadas' team, which shows a 20-1 dual meet record.
The Wildcats had 14 place-winners, two champs, and a runner-up.
The competitors were divided into pools of four with the draw based on seeding, Nos. 1-16. Each wrestler competed with all of the other opponents in his pool. Then the wrestlers were placed into brackets based on their pool finish. Each youngster got in five matches for the day.
Team trophies were awarded to champion Handley and second-place Warren County, while the top four wrestlers in each weight competition medaled. Two outstanding wrestlers were selected from the mammoth number of athletes who represented their schools on the mats. Strasburg's 126-pound Nic Campbell, who pinned four opponents while going 5-0, was tabbed as one of the standouts.
"We felt we did great as a team today. The post-season is all bracketed [for individuals], so having a tournament like this this late in the season--when it's usually all duals-is good for the post-season," said Wadas.
Strasburg placed four in the semifinals and/or finals and came out victorious in two of their finals.
Stonewall Jackson put up two placers, while Central saw one wrestler move to the final four. None of those participants won his match.
Campbell, a two-time defending state champ, knocked off Bret Romanzak, of Jefferson Forest, 13-4 for the championship hardware. He was followed by 132-pound Hunter Dean, who dropped Kettle Run's Cameron O'Connor 6-4 in the final round. Dean was the 2012-13 Group A state champ at 106.
Because Campbell, who wrestled at 113 and 120 a year ago, and Dean were wrestling "up" this year, they have geared their strategy to overtake stronger, heavier opponents early rather than waging longer fights.
"I was looking for early takedowns. That's what I was working on at least," Dean said. "I've read that 70 percent of wrestlers who score the first takedown usually win the meet. At 132, kids are so strong. That guy I just wrestled [O'Connor] was huge. Some of these guys cut weight all the way up to 145, so you look for a way to get to them early."
Dean, 5-0 Saturday and 33-0 for the season, pinned his first three contestants.
Campbell (33-0 this season), who was also unbeaten in five tests, added: "I feel like a personal goal is to go 5-0 and pin everybody. It's good to get it over with early. My first four matches were pins today. You look for the quick finish because once you go up in weight class, you have to rely a lot on technique.
The Rams own a 22-3 dual meet record.
Strasburg's Tyler Drummond (160) finished runner-up to John Champe's Brandon Rafferty after being pinned in the final, while the Rams' Josh Pritchett finished in fourth place at 195.
Warren County's Zach Beckner (5-0, 32-0 this season) claimed first prize at 106, followed aptly by champion Tyler Barisciano who followed suit at 113. Barisciano owned a 5-0, 30-1 record.
"I really thought Tyler stood out. He's been getting overshadowed a little by Zach and [32-1] Terrace Thompson [who finished third at 120], but he wrestled well tonight. That's not to take anything away from Zach who was outstanding from start to finish," Wadas said.
"My step-dad [Scott Asher], who coached me through the eighth grade, told me I had to come out and be aggressive, and so that's what I tried to do," said Beckner. "Basically, I controlled the matches, but I kept hearing him scream 'You need to keep pushing.'"
"I go out with an attitude of nobody deserves to win my matches but me. I wrestle all season with Next Level [club] team and I get in extra workouts. My goal this year is to win a state championship," said Barisciano, who finished fifth in the states last year.
Beckner out-wrestled Clarke County's Bayne Gordon 9-0 for his trophy, while Barisciano took a 13-2 decision over Jefferson Forest's Randy Lin. Beckner pinned four of his first five adversaries.
Warren County's Jacob Schneider (170) finished runner-up to Clarke County's Ben Wallace after being pinned in the finals, while the Wildcats' 106-pound Brett Binnix and 145 pounder Brandon Ketola each placed fourth in his division.
Central's Thomas Peacemaker (138) finished runner-up to Jefferson Forest's Peyton Woodeall by virtue of a 20-4 score, while Stonewall Jackson's 145 pounder, Chris Delaughter, finished second to Jefferson Forest's Luke Mitchell 13-3. The Generals' Mathias McCabe finished fourth at 160.