Wildcats sweep in Warren Duals

FRONT ROYAL– According to co-captain Zach Beckner, some may be counting out the Warren County wrestling team this season due to the roster losses from a year ago.

During the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats finished runner-up in their district and conference.

However, if Saturday’s result in the Warren Duals is any indicator, those doubters may be in for a surprise.

Warren, led by its four co-captains, trounced a field of five other schools in winning its own event. The Wildcats finished 5-0 as a team ahead of runner-up Broadway (4-1), William Monroe (3-2), Harrisonburg (2-3), Oakton (1-4) and East Rockingham (0-5).

“I guess I’d like to single out our captains today. All of them finished 5-0,” Warren County coach Matt Wadas said.

Those would be Beckner (at 120 pounds), fellow junior Jacob Schneider (170), and seniors Tyler Shanholtz (145) and Brett Binnix (106).

“I think a lot of people don’t think we’ll do so much because we’re so young,” said Beckner. “But we’ve trained hard and work hard, and I think we’ll surprise some people.”

Beckner, who wrestled last season at 106, probably surprised no one by zipping through his quintet of competitors. These included Patrick Gehman, from William Monroe, who finished seventh at the Group 3A state championships last season.

Beckner was runner-up at states in his division as a sophomore. This season he has added two inches (he stands at 5-foot-6) and about 15 pounds of muscle and girth.

However, Wadas’ team was without three starters on Saturday, including two who were injured and a third, senior Tristan Ward, who was taking a college placement exam.

Still, the Wildcats, who finished 20-2 as a team a year ago, plundered a field which included Group 6A Oakton, from Vienna.

“They always bring a good team. They’re big and they’re tough. They have a good football program over there. But Broadway and William Monroe always wrestle well, too,” Wadas said.

The coach, entering his 13th season at the helm of the Front Royal program, and Beckner, who lost just the one bout in the state championship, pointed to new strength and conditioning coach, Michael Minch, as a big reason why the Wildcats — as a group — seemed stronger than their competitors in front of a good-sized audience that filled one side of the bleachers at the Warren County gym.

“He’s a health and physical education teacher and coordinator of the school’s strength program. He came here this summer and has helped us out,” said Wadas.

“Coach Minch and [assistant] coach Chad Billy — they punish me in practice,” Beckner said. “I feel a lot stronger this year. I’m eating better and I’m lifting. I don’t have to cut weight all the time like I did last year. I feel a lot better this year.”

A summer spent wrestling on the national level has also added to the youngster’s confidence.

“I got out there and saw what kind of competition there was. I had a sense that I can do it,” he said.

Now, he is setting his sights on a number of goals.

“I want to do something that can’t be done. Well, it can be done, but a lot of people haven’t done it,” Beckner said.

That would include winning a state title, something that has not been done at the school since 2001, and even wrestling on the collegiate level.

Toward that end, he gave up running cross-country to “focus on the sport that I love. I talked with my mother about it, and we both decided this was best for me,” Beckner said.

Not to mention helping his team prove the nay-sayers wrong.