Damascus wins Skyline wrestling tournament

FRONT ROYAL-Perennial power Damascus (Md.) went looking for stiffer competition over the weekend, and has yet to find it.

The Class 3A Hornets, back-to-back state champions and winners of seven team crowns in their history, won 409 of a potential 490 scores in streaming past the competition in the eighth annual Appalachian Duals wrestling tournament at Skyline High School.

The Hornets knocked off Battlefield 48-14 in the championship round Saturday night to go 7-0 overall. Annandale finished third by edging Lake Braddock 38-32 in the consolation round.

Strasburg, the returning Group 2A state runner-up, posted a 5-3 record, while defending champion and host school Skyline was 4-4.

The Rams whipped the Hawks 55-24 when they met head-to-head. Strasburg took just its second victory over Skyline in history, though the two failed to meet for a period during that span.

Strasburg was 14-2 in dual matches and 45-5 over two years entering the match, and Coach Mike Wood seemed disappointed, even though his team provided a better finish than the year before.

“We lost [to Annandale, 38-30] because we were not ready,” Wood said. “We win that match and we’re into [the round] for third or fourth place. It was right there for us, but some of our better guys didn’t have their best efforts.”

Annandale, which came from behind to nip Lake Braddock for third, trailed Strasburg 30-26, but received pins in the 195- and 220-pound classes to pull out the win and set itself up for the consolation match.

Earlier, champ Damascus drubbed Strasburg 56-13, just like it did every other squad it faced. The Hornets buzzed by Franklin 55-12, Handley 61-9, Annandale 60-12, Centreville 68-6, Jefferson Forest 61-15, and Battlefield by the 34 points.

Skyline coach Matt Keel, who with his staff organizes this tournament each season, said Damascus contacted the Hawks, hoping to find strong competition.

“We knew that they wrestled well over here in Virginia, and we thought this would be a good place for us to come,” winning coach John Furgeson said.

Damascus’ seniors are 87-1 since starting their careers at the Washington, D.C.-area school, which has about 1,200 students, the coach said.

So strong is that team that even Furgeson’s son, a strong junior wrestler, cannot crack the starting lineup.

“It’s very competitive. It’s been that way since even before I’ve been here,” said the seventh year coach.

It is understandable that Strasburg, easily the smallest school in the field of 12 competitors (Central disqualified itself), would face long odds against the tourney champ. Otherwise, Wood refused to use the size difference as a crutch.

“I’ve always wrestled for-and coached-smaller schools. That’s really no excuse. The reason [Battlefield] is in the finals is because they prepared themselves to win. We didn’t,” Wood said.

Strasburg had wrestled 16 dual matches in the previous week, perhaps making them a bit lackluster for its final round.

“I don’t know what it was, but we were flat out there,” Wood said of the run-up to the championship match.

Meanwhile, Keel’s program is in something of a rebuilding mode. Having won the Northwest District last season, the coach is returning outstanding wrestlers at 138 (pounds), 145, 170 and 285. Respectively, those are state qualifiers Noah Goss, Caleb VanDoren and Josiah Huston, who team with (co-heavyweights) Ronnie Clifton and Gerren Butler.

Goss finished 5-0; VanDoren was 5-1; Huston finished 5-0; Clifton went 3-0 and Butler ended 2-0.

“If the kids keep working, we’re going to have some state qualifiers, but we might not be as strong [as in 2013-14]) in dual meets,” Keel said.

Keel is working with a thinner roster than last year.

“We might go through a lean year, but we’ve got some numbers coming up,” he said.

His youth program has some 80 participants in its 8-to-12-year-old ranks.

For Strasburg, Nic Campbell (126-132) finished the weekend at 4-3; Hunter Dean (145) was 7-0; Kyle Sisk (106) was 5-1; Dylan Campbell (126-132) had a tournament record of 5-2.

Nic Campbell is a three-time state champion and has signed a scholarship with George Mason; Dean is a two-time state champ.

The Rams were region and conference title winners in the 2013-14 season.

Wood likes to compete at the “highest levels.” His squad has nine days off before heading for Pittsburgh and a stern test among some 50 wrestling squads from throughout the East and Midwest.