By Brad Fauber
Sherando has plenty to feel good about as it prepares to hit the mats for the 4A state wrestling tournament today and Saturday at Salem Civic Center.
The Warriors are coming off back-to-back dominating team performances in the Conference 21 and Region 4A North tournaments, and Monday's regional title was the first for Sherando since the 2001-2002 season. The Warriors also qualified seven wrestlers for the state meet, the most of any team in their region.
"We feel the wrestlers are real confident based on our performance last weekend," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said in a phone interview Wednesday. "We ended up beating three or four very good teams to win the regional championship.
"We are coming into this weekend with confidence and we're going to have a shot at a state title."
That confidence will be put to a big test this weekend, as Sherando has already started to face some adversity before any of its wrestlers even stepped foot on the mat. The Warriors are going to be down one state qualifier in Salem, as senior Killian McPartland sustained injuries from a car accident Wednesday morning and will be unable to compete.
Martin said the loss of McPartland, who came on strong late in the season and earned a third-place finish at 182 pounds in the regional tournament, could be a serious blow to the Warriors' chances of winning its first-ever state wrestling title.
"It's a little setback for us and our guys," Martin said. "In a situation like this with a little adversity, we've basically got to persevere and make up some points that Killian may have earned the team this weekend. He was really starting to put it all together on the wrestling mat, and he was one of our biggest surprises this past weekend."
Despite the loss of McPartland the Warriors still have a strong group of wrestlers that is led by senior P.K. Jessen, who won the 170-pound regional title last weekend and will be making his second trip to the state tournament. Jessen, who is 43-1 this season, also advanced to the state tournament with Millbrook during his sophomore season.
Senior Tyler Hamilton (220 pounds) will also be making his second straight trip to the state tournament following a runner-up finish in the regional meet, and senior Jacob Guthridge (132), making his third state tournament appearance, will look to rebound from a disappointing third-place finish this past weekend.
Sophomore Mike Duffy (106), freshman John Borst (152), and sophomore Ben Avery (285) will also compete for Sherando, which beat some of the state's top 4A contenders in Eastern View and Fauquier in last weekend's regional meet.
"Our goal is to win the state title, and for that to happen we're going to really have to step it up a notch," Martin said.
Strasburg is also in the thick of the state title race in the Class 2A tournament, which will also take place in Salem alongside the 1A, 3A and 4A meets. Like Sherando, the Rams are coming off conference and region tournament championships, and Strasburg is sending an area-best nine wrestlers to the state meet this weekend.
The Rams had two individual champions in juniors Nic Campbell (126) and Hunter Dean (132) in Sunday's 2A East regional tournament, and both will look to repeat as state champions this weekend. Dean won the 106-pound title in last year's old Group A format, and Campbell will be seeking his third straight state championship after winning titles at 113 and 120 pounds his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively.
Strasburg also qualified Kyle Sisk (106), Dylan Campbell (113), Eric Reynolds (120), Marco Gallagher (145), Tyler Drummond (160), Josh Pritchett (195) and Thayer Norris (285) for the state tournament.
"Winning a state title is our main goal and has been from day one," Rams coach Mike Wood said. "Winning the regional was one of our goals, we did it and we didn't wrestle our best. So we are working on some things this week to correct that. Winning always gives you confidence, but you don't want it to be arrogance. We'll still have to stay focused and get one more job done."
The Rams are aiming for their fourth team championship in school history, and their first since the 1999-2000 season. Strasburg finished second last season behind perennial power Grundy, and the Rams are sending one more wrestler to Salem this year than they did last season.
"To knock Grundy off we have to wrestle as close to perfect as we can and hope some of their guys don't," Wood said. "Champs will always rise under pressure and I hope we do that."
Stonewall Jackson, which finished sixth in the 2A East regional tournament, will be sending five wrestlers to the state meet, including region second-place winners Chris Delaughter (145) and Mathias McCabe (160). Andrew Good (132), Phillip Stauffer (138) and Kyle Cowart (152) also qualified.
Skyline is coming off a fourth-place finish in Sunday's and Monday's 3A East regional tournament, and the Hawks qualified four individuals for the 3A state meet. Juniors Noah Goss (132) and Josiah Huston (152) are coming off regional titles for Skyline, and Caleb VanDoren (138) and Dustin Santmyers (160) each finished second for the Hawks. All four Skyline wrestlers are making their second straight state tournament appearance.
Hawks coach Matt Keel said he has been emphasizing to his wrestlers to only focus on what it is front of them and to only "worry about what you can control."
"If they do everything they can in preparation and wrestle the way they have all season each one of them will reach their goals and we'll be bringing home some hardware," Keel said.
Warren County will be sending six individuals to Salem, including regional champion Zach Beckner (106). The sophomore is 42-0 this season.
Senior Tyler Barisciano (113) and sophomore Jacob Schneider (170) each finished second in the regional tournament, and Terrace Thompson (120), Tyler Shanholtz (138) and Tristan Ward (152) also qualified for the state meet.
Warren County coach Matt Wadas said the Wildcats are looking to build on the success they had in the 3A East regional tournament, where they finished fifth as a team and posted a number of upsets.
"It's a quick turnaround but the state tournament is this weekend and we are looking to capitalize on the momentum of regions," Wadas said. "We try to keep everything the same practice-wise. We want to be excited about the opportunity but keep grounded. The important thing is to focus on the wrestling just like all the other weeks of the season."
Central qualified one wrestler for the 3A state tournament, as senior Jacob Ingham (182) placed third in the regional meet. Ingham will be making his second state tournament appearance.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org