STEPHENS CITY – Longtime Sherando wrestling coach Pepper Martin offered an easy description of sophomore John Borst following the Warriors’ duals against Northwestern District rivals James Wood and Millbrook on Wednesday evening.
“He’s just a pinning machine,” Martin said shortly after Borst netted two pins while helping lead Sherando to its 17th and 18th victories of the season.
Martin’s statement was simple, and maybe even a tad cliché, but there likely isn’t a better choice of words to describe what Borst has done on the mat during his sophomore year.
Wrestling at the 170-pound weight class this season, Borst leads the area in wins and boasts a sparkling 38-2 record after Wednesday’s duals. Of his 38 victories, 33 have come via pin. That’s one pin shy of the school record for pins in a season set by Tim Kettlewell and Tim Coffman during the 2006-07 season, and Borst has about 15 regular-season matches left to beat and then expand on that record before the Conference 21 tournament on February 7.
Martin said Sherando has had a history of housing “pinners” in the past, wrestlers not known for their finesse but for their innate ability to put an opponent on their back, and he counts Borst among that exclusive group.
“We knew when he was coming what we had in him. We knew that we had a young man that loved the sport of wrestling and was going to do everything he could to make himself successful in the sport,” Martin said. “Our job is to just make sure we don’t mess it up. I’m saying that somewhat facetiously, but on the other end of it [our job is] to expand his weapons, teach him some more things that he can do to be successful on the mat – expand his arsenal, so to speak.”
What exactly has allowed Borst to reach such a high volume of pins faster than anyone else in school history? It all comes down to “dominating” the opposition, Borst said, no matter if he is on his feet, on top of or underneath his opponent.
“It’s a common goal,” said Borst, whose offseason work includes various national competitions with Team Virginia. “[Assistant coach Brian] Kibler has told me every day that you’ve just got to dominate kids. And that’s the goal. I come in and I dominate and that’s what you’ve got to do. I feel like I’m excelling at it.”
Getting those pins and earning Sherando six team points in the process has been the mission for Borst since he stepped on the mat at the start of the season. But it wasn’t until recently that he was even aware that he closing in on the school record at a blistering pace.
“I knew I was going to have to work hard to get there and I’ve definitely been getting to where I want to be,” said Borst, who went 37-13 with 28 pins as a freshman last season while also placing fifth in the Group 4A state tournament at 152 pounds. “I’ve been working hard every single day, coming in and getting better. I didn’t think about the [record] until someone kind of mentioned it and was like, ‘Hey, you’re only five pins away.’ And I realized I had like 22 matches left in the season and I was like, ‘Oh, I can definitely get there now.'”
Borst’s hunt for the record has only intensified his pin-at-all-cost approach, a mentality that has served him well on the mat through the first month and a half of his sophomore season.
He has already earned Outstanding Wrestler honors on two separate occasions this winter, the first coming after a championship run through the 17-team Willie Walters Invitational at James Wood at the end of December and the second coming after a perfect 5-0 performance – which included five first-period pins – at the second annual Mountain View Duals on Saturday.
“I didn’t really expect to get outstanding wrestler, but now it’s kind of become a thing where it’s the goal,” Borst said. “It’s not only win the tournament, but make sure you pin your way through the tournament and get OW. It helps you tremendously because it gives you the confidence.”
Borst’s exploits on the mat have also solidified his role as a leader for the Warriors, a position that is generally reserved for upperclassmen and rarely held by sophomores.
Borst said he simply “hopped in” at the beginning of the season and offered words of encouragement to his teammates following practices and matches, and his status as Sherando’s vocal leader stuck.
“It was a situation where it was being done the right way and his teammates were accepting him – not only accepting him but listening to what he had to say and respecting how he leads,” Martin said. “We just went on with it.”
Borst’s leadership will be important to the Warriors’ success over the remainder of the season, as Sherando aims to defend its Conference 21 and Region 4A North titles that it won a season ago.
On a personal level, Borst is seeking revenge on a couple of fronts. Borst’s two losses this season came against fellow 4A competitors in Glen Allen’s Chip Sturek and Woodgrove’s Jacob David, the latter of which beat Borst in the 152-pound championship of the Conference 21 and Region 4A North tournaments last season.
Borst is hoping for another shot at both wrestlers when postseason competition starts next month, while also trying to improve on last season’s fifth-place showing at the state tournament in Salem.
“I did not perform well, to my capability, the first two matches [of the state tournament] and that’s what kind of landed me a fifth-place spot,” Borst recalled. “I definitely think I’m going to do better this year. I’m looking for that ring. That’s the biggest goal, is that ring.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com