By Brad Fauber
SALEM -- Warren County sophomore Zach Beckner nearly pulled it off.
After losing out on the starting 106-pound spot on the Wildcats' wrestling team last season, Beckner returned this year with a determination that helped him win his first 44 matches. During that run he captured Bull Run District, Conference 28 and Region 3A East titles and secured a spot in the 3A state tournament championship match with a strong showing this past weekend at Salem Civic Center.
But Beckner's spectacular sophomore campaign came to a disappointing end on Saturday, as he dropped a 4-1 decision to Brookville's Reid Stewart for the 3A 106-pound championship.
"He caught me," Beckner said shortly after the match. "I didn't realize he had been scouting me throughout the tournament, but he knew where I was going to shoot right off the whistle."
Stewart thwarted Beckner's takedown attempts multiple times throughout Saturday's championship match, and the Brookville freshman scored two points 38 seconds into the match in what turned out to be the decisive exchange.
"I was trying to get his leg over my head because if get his leg over my head then he's extended and I can go out and get behind him and score two," said Beckner.
"Towards the beginning he kept his foot down too far and I couldn't get it, then he locked up a cradle and I had to bail. If that doesn't happen I can win the match 1-0."
The two wrestlers battled to a scoreless second period, but Beckner started the third period in the down position and earned an escape point 30 seconds in to pull within one point. Beckner made a late push for a takedown, but Stewart reversed Beckner's attempt and scored his own takedown in the closing seconds.
"I think [Beckner] wrestled well. I think we got in some positions and [Stewart] was able to score," Warren County coach Matt Wadas said. "You've got to credit that kid for having a great game plan against us. I don't think Zach did anything bad, it was just two great wrestlers going at it."
Skyline, which sent four wrestlers to the state tournament, had two finalists in junior Noah Goss and senior Dustin Santmyers. Both came up short in their quest for their first state titles on Saturday.
Goss, who won the 132-pound title at both the Conference 28 and 3A East regional tournaments earlier this year, had his hands full on Saturday in the state final against Christiansburg senior Coy Ozias.
Ozias, a Greco-Roman national champion who has signed to wrestle at Princeton University, controlled the match from the start and rolled to a 23-8 tech fall victory midway through the second period. It was Ozias' fourth straight state championship.
"I knew I was going to have a really, really tough match going into it. I was expecting to win, because you have to imagine yourself winning before you can actually win," said Goss, who went 45-8 this season. "I'm happy to get second, but I'm still disappointed I didn't win. But I can't be too disappointed, he's a nationally-ranked kid, four-time state champion so I can't be too down on myself."
Santmyers faced Colonial Heights' Justin Trent for a state championship on Saturday in a rematch of the 160-pound regional title match. Much like the regional bout, Trent took an early lead and was able to fend off Santmyers for the championship.
Trent scored a takedown with 15 seconds left in the first period, and Santmyers pulled within a point following an escape to start the second period. But Trent earned an escape of his own to start the third and held on for a 3-2 decision.
"We had underhook and [Trent] threw a headlock. We tried to roll him through and it didn't work out," Skyline coach Matt Keel said. "Then, just like regionals, he gets his points and then runs and blocks, runs and blocks. He does it just right, so you can't get any calls. We were close at the time, but the kid battled, Dustin battled. He is going to be extremely disappointed because that was his goal and he's worked as hard as anybody in that Skyline wrestling room to achieve that goal."
Skyline, which had three top-three placers and two state finalists for the first time in school history, also finished in the top 10 at the state tournament for the first time with a ninth-place (49 points) finish.
Caleb VanDoren (138) placed sixth for the Hawks, while junior Josiah Huston rebounded from a first-round upset loss to finish third in the 152-pound class.
Central senior Jacob Ingham finished fifth in the state in the 182-pound weight class.
Warren County (61.5 points), which sent six wrestlers to Salem, finished seventh in the team standings. Powerhouse Christiansburg (101.5) won the 3A team title.
The Wildcats had three third-place finishers on Saturday, as seniors Tyler Barisciano (113) and Terrace Thompson (120), and sophomore Jacob Schneider (170) each won their final matches of the season for Warren County.
Tyler Shanholtz finished sixth in the 138-pound class for the Wildcats, while Tristan Ward placed seventh at 152 pounds.
"This was a great day for us," Wadas said. "Tyler Barisciano and Terrace Thompson ending their careers with wins and taking third was fantastic. The team, being in the top [seven] -- it was unbelievable team effort today, everybody placing, everybody getting wins."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org