By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG -- The Strasburg faithful were cheering as loud as they could as the final match of the 2A East Region wrestling tournament unfolded late Sunday evening. It was a tight battle in the 285 final, and the Strasburg fans and wrestlers were as invested as possible -- even though there wasn't a Ram wrestling.
The Rams needed a win by East Rockingham's David Kisling over Clarke County's Ryan Huff to secure the team title. As Kisling pinned Huff at 5:27, the Strasburg gym erupted with cheers and celebration.
Strasburg won its second straight region team title with 200 points, while Clarke County finished second with 197.
"It feels good, but we put ourselves in a situation where we had to depend on somebody else to win it for us," Strasburg coach Mike Wood said. "As I'm happy for us winning, I'm a little mad that we didn't wrestle well in the semifinal matches. We put ourselves in that situation. There were some guys that helped us, and some guys that didn't do what they were supposed to do."
Strasburg had three wrestlers in the finals, and Nic Campbell and Hunter Dean, both juniors, each won a region title.
Campbell won by major decision over Buffalo Gap's Cole Conley, 15-3, in the 126-pound final. The match was very physical and got a little heated between the two. The referees warned both wrestlers a few times during the contest. In the end Campbell was able to dominate for his third straight region championship.
"It's good to get your third region title as a junior," Campbell said. "It shows how dominating you can be, and how dominant that I have been."
Dean followed with a pin over Madison County's Jacob Welch in 1:25.
"We needed the pin for team points," Dean said. "[It was a] close race with Clarke County. My goal going in was to get the pin and get off quick. It just worked out."
It was the second consecutive region title for Dean, and he said it felt even better this season.
"It's good to come back out and win it at a higher weight class," Dean said. "It feels a lot better, because this is a bigger region this year than we had last year with the [reclassification]."
The region tournament was originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but due to the weather it was changed to a one-day event on Sunday.
The Rams will be sending nine wrestlers to the Group 2A state tournament this weekend in Salem.
"Our goal was to have 10 or 11, so we came just short of that, but nine is the most that we've had in as long as I can remember," Dean said.
Stonewall Jackson will be sending five wrestlers to the state tournament. The Generals had two finalists in the region tournament, and finished sixth as a team with 96.5 points.
In the 145-pound final, Chris Delaughter lost to Wilson Memorial's Logan Via, 9-2. In the 160-pound final, Stonewall Jackson's Mathias McCabe lost a close match to Riverheads' Austin Smiley, 8-3. McCabe said he lost twice last year to Smiley, but pinned him in their only previous meeting this season.
Smiley led 4-2 entering the final period, but pulled away in the last two minutes.
"[Smiley] picked up his cardio, and he trained pretty hard over the past two months," McCabe said. "I just need to pick myself up, pick up the intensity."
Strasburg's Dylan Campbell was pinned by Nottoway's Josh Lafferty in 3:46 in the 113-pound final. The Rams had four wrestlers finish third: Kyle Sisk (106), Marco Gallagher (145), Tyler Drummond (160) and Josh Pritchett (195). The Rams had two finish fourth: Eric Reynolds (120) and Thayer Norris (285).
Stonewall Jackson had two third place finishers, Andrew Good (132) and Kyle Cowart (152), and one fourth place finisher, Phillip Stauffer (138).
Wood said the close call with the Eagles could be a good lesson for his squad as they head into the state tournament.
"We got by, now let's go regroup," Wood said. "We'll do a little hollering. We'll do a little screaming. We'll work on some things, and we'll go down to Salem and hopefully push for a state title."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd