By Brad Fauber
SALEM -- Sherando had loftier goals than the fifth-place team finish the Warriors garnered following the conclusion of the two-day 4A state wrestling tournament at Salem Civic Center this past weekend.
The Warriors had six wrestlers competing in the tournament and had hoped to contend for the 4A team title. But by the end of the day Friday, Sherando had just one wrestler in Saturday's championship round and was a long shot to accomplish that goal.
Sherando senior P.K. Jessen, making his second state tournament appearance and his first with Sherando, was the lone Warrior battling for a state title on Saturday evening, but his attempt at claiming his first state title fell short in the 170-pound championship.
"I won't say that as I coaching staff we're disappointed with how we wrestled this weekend. It was just everything didn't fall into place for us and it culminated with the match at 170 with P.K. for a state championship," Warriors head coach Pepper Martin said.
Jessen, coming off Conference 21 and Region 4A North titles earlier this season, won both of his first two state tournament matches by pin to advance to the state final against Smithfield's Jordan Garlow.
Jessen went to work quickly on Garlow, as he scored a takedown in the first 25 seconds to take an early 2-0 lead before Garlow earned a point back via an escape 15 seconds later. About 30 seconds later, Garlow caught Jessen with a quick takedown and within seconds had the Sherando senior on his back and drew a quick whistle from the referee, as Garlow was awarded a victory by pin at the 1:13 mark.
"I got caught on my back and the guy pinned me," said Jessen, who finished the year 45-2.
"I had a good year and I just came up short by one match. That's the name of the game. That's wrestling."
Martin didn't blame the officiating for Jessen's loss, but admitted that the referee's whistle came surprisingly quickly.
"It was like a flash pin," Martin said. "The officiating here this weekend I thought was really solid, but it probably one of the quickest pins called that I have witnessed in my coaching career.
"You feel bad for the kid because he has worked so hard this year ... this was his ultimate goal to be a state champ, to culminate his high school career with a state title. It wasn't meant to be. We're proud of his accomplishments this year, but we're even more proud how he handled himself with dignity with the loss."
Sherando senior Tyler Hamilton ended his high school wrestling career on a winning note, as he rebounded from a semifinal loss to Smithfield's Nick Kennedy to win third place in the 220-pound weight class.
Hamilton squared off with Courtland's Joe Tyson in the third-place match on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of the 4A North regional championship, and Hamilton -- who was beaten by Tyson last week -- avenged his loss with a 9-6 decision victory.
"Tyler had a really nice tournament," Martin said. "He started out slowly. In the semis he got beat by a guy that is better than him.... no excuses there, the guy that beat us was better. He didn't fold his tent and just cash it in. He was disappointed but got it back together, took one match at a time and clawed his way all the way back to get third."
Sherando senior Jacob Guthridge (132 pounds) and freshman John Borst (152) each finished in fifth place for the Warriors. Sophomore Mike Duffy (106) finished in seventh place and sophomore Ben Avery (285) took eighth for Sherando.
The Warriors finished tied for fifth place as a team with Northwestern District rival Millbrook, as both teams accumulated 53 total points. Hanover won the team title with a total of 96 points.
"Overall, we fell short of our goal coming in," Martin said. "We would've had to have wrestled extremely on point to really challenge for a state title. Some of the teams down here were a lot stronger than we expected from the south [region]. They had better quality, the wrestlers that can get to the final and win a final."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org