Beckner works to ‘get noticed’

Zach Beckner

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County junior Zach Beckner wasn’t too happy as he and his teammates left Pennsylvania following the Tunkhannock Kiwanis Wrestling Tournament at the end of December.

It was there, in the 120-pound championship match, that Beckner suffered his first regular season loss in three seasons with the Wildcats.

“I was leading most of the match, but then I got reversed and put on my back with like five seconds left. I was mad. I was so mad,” Beckner recalled of his 4-1 loss to Josh Haley of Wyalusing Valley (Pennsylvania). “I just told myself that I wanted to come back to Virginia and try to be one of the best. I want to prove to not only my school, but the entire state that I’m up there. I’d like to be noticed.”

Beckner certainly drew plenty of attention to himself after his performance in the 22-team Judges Invitational at John Handley High School this past Saturday.

Cutting weight down to 113 pounds for the first time this season, Beckner rolled through his competition, winning all five of his bouts by pin en route to winning the 113-pound title. Beckner, who was awarded the title of most outstanding wrestler at the tournament, is The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Jan. 11-17.

“I felt like I wrestled really well on Saturday, honestly,” Beckner said. “My hand fighting was top notch. I was aggressive, going out there and just trying to really take hold of the match and own the mat, basically. I faced good competition up and down. Our entire team had a good tournament. We were missing three starters and ended up finishing fourth. It was good. It’s just all preparation for the postseason.”

Beckner, last season’s Group 3A state runner-up at 106 pounds, began his run on Saturday by winning all three of his matches in the pool round. He notched pins over Rock Ridge’s Andrew Nguyen (0:52), South Lakes’ (6A) Dylan Suzuki (2:53) and Woodgrove’s Yadel Schnabel (3:11) to advance to the semifinal match.

Beckner then secured his spot in the championship round with a second-period pin of Tuscarora’s (5A) Spencer Reed.

Beckner faced a familiar foe in 113-pound championship, as he squared off with sophomore Bayne Gordon of Bull Run District rival Clarke County. Beckner pinned Gordon, last season’s Group 2A state champion at 106 pounds, in one minute, 14 seconds for the title.

“Beating a 2A state champ in the finals, pinning him is just amazing,” Wildcats head coach Matt Wadas said. “Really, it’s a big thing for our team. It’s a big boost, his leadership and what he does on the mat. And obviously team points-wise it was big, too. We love having him lead the way in the finals and it was exciting.”

Beckner’s win over Gordon was his fourth in four career tries against the Clarke County sophomore, and his first against Gordon this season. Despite being district rivals who often compete in the same weight class, Beckner said he and Gordon developed a good friendship over the summer when the two competed with Team Virginia at a national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota.

“Each time I go out there on the mat, though, I’ve got to think to myself, ‘Hey, we’re buddies off the mat but we can’t be friends on the mat. We’ve got to wrestle,'” Beckner said. “I wrestled well against him and, like I said, I’m just trying to keep the ball rolling.”

Beckner said the plan is to stick at 113 pounds for the rest of the season as he works toward a return trip the state tournament in Salem. The junior has amassed a record of 35-1 with 25 pins this season.

“I’m fat,” Beckner joked. “I like food, so I talked to coach about it before the season and we came up with a schedule and when I would drop down. The time came and I wasn’t too happy about it, but it’s all in the name of trying to do the best in Salem.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com