By Jim Laise - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- In a season of "firsts," Strasburg High School's wrestling team tacked on another by knocking off Clarke County, 38-33, and the remainder of the field in the initial Region 2A East Conference 35 tournament Saturday at the Rams' gymnasium.
The Rams, 34-3 in dual meets, dropped Clarke by five points in the final match of the day to go 4-0 in the five-team field. Clarke County (3-1) finished second; Stonewall Jackson (2-2) third, Madison County (1-3) fourth and George Mason (0-4) fifth.
Again, it was two-time defending state champion Nic Campbell (50-0 this year) who first-year coach Mike Wood turned to for the winning points. Campbell is wrestling at the 126-pound mark in this campaign.
Campbell, who was 4-0 before a partisan gymnasium, knocked off Clarke's Sean Erisman 15-0 in a match that was stopped in the second period with 1:24 remaining. The day's final bout gave the Rams the points they needed for the overall team trophy.
When Campbell clipped Erisman, it meant the Rams had laid claim to a conference crown and a Bull Run District title two weeks ago to add to other team championships in various round-robins, quads, and duals this year.
Right now, Wood's team is chasing history.
Strasburg's current dual record is the third best in the Rams' 47 years of wrestling history. That record includes 21 dual match victories in a row, according to Wood. The coach said the all-time Strasburg dual mark of 19-1 was set in 1980.
Campbell, who was among three Rams to win district (Hunter Dean and Tyler Drummond were the others) titles, will be going for his third state wrestling championship later this year. As Wood said, he could become the only Ram ever to win four state titles, should he claim one in this, his junior season, and 2014-15, as a senior.
However, this is down the road. Campbell was just happy to get the decisive win Saturday against the Eagles.
"I'm kinda used to winning in the first period, but I'll take this," he said. "I don't care how good of a shape you're in, after you wrestle a couple of guys you're always going to be a little tired at the end of the day.
"But it feels good to win. I knew it would come down to one match."
Campbell has lost only once in his career, a defeat he absorbed as a freshman. He has compiled 44 pins this season.
The Ram who was on mat No. 1 prior to Campbell was 120-pounder Eric Reynolds, who was aware Wood had slotted him in the next-to-last bout of the afternoon.
"He told me he was going to do it, so that I could tie," said Reynolds.
He did just that as he decisioned Clarke County's Brandon Ciaburri, 3-2, to knot the match at 33-all.
Hunter Dean (132), Dalton Dillman (138) and Marco Gallagher (145) sent the eventual champs onto a 15-0 start.
Clarke's Matt Cleary (152) pinned Ram Bradlee Hodson for the Eagles' first points of the day (15-6), while a forfeit in favor 160-pounder Tyler Drummond increased the Rams' lead to 21-6.
Likewise, Clarke County defending state champion Ben Wallace followed with a forfeit at 170 to make it 21-12. A Logan Withers' pin at 182 pulled the Eagles within 21-18.
Strasburg expanded its advantage to 24-18 after 195-pounder Josh Pritchett defeated counterpart Sean Hill of Clarke County 7-2.
Clarke County's Mark Alexander's pin of Trey Mills at 220 tied it at 24, then Ryan Huff (285) pinned Thayer Norris to give the Eagles a 30-24 advantage. Bayne Gordon enjoyed a 7-0 advantage over Strasburg's Kyle Sisk to a 33-24 advantage.
But Dylan Campbell pinned Jacob Parrish to cut the Clarke County lead to 33-30 to set up Reynolds and Nic Campbell to clinch the tourney.
It was the third time the Eagles and Rams have competed against each other this season, with Strasburg coming out on top of each of the matches.
"They're outstanding, there's no question about that," said Clarke County coach John VanSice. "But we competed today and we continue to close the gap on them."
Stonewall Jackson's Andrew Good (132), Christopher DeLaughter (145), Kyle Cowart (152) and 160-pound Mathias McCabe finished with runner-up awards.
All matches operated in the team round-robin format. Each wrestler was to stay in one weight class throughout the competition. All wrestlers who participated advanced to the two-day 17-team Group 2A East regional championship next weekend, also scheduled for the Strasburg gymnasium. The results of the conference matches will be used in seeding the regional.