Rams defend Bull Run District wrestling title

FRONT ROYAL – Strasburg senior Hunter Dean was closing in on a personal milestone and looking for his third straight district title entering Saturday’s Bull Run District wrestling tournament at Warren County High School. But he was more concerned about the Rams’ fate as a whole.

“I was kind of more nervous for the team today because I know our coach expects a lot of us, and we have to go out there and commit to our moves sometimes,” Dean said. “It’s a little nerve wracking. But it was a good day.”

It certainly was a good day for Dean and his Strasburg teammates. On top of Dean winning his third district title and capturing his 200th career win in the process, the Rams held off Clarke County to claim their second consecutive Bull Run District championship. Strasburg topped the tournament field with 204 points to edge out the Eagles (199.5) and host Warren County (192) and had a tournament-best four individual champions.

Clarke County had a chance to clinch the team title with two matches remaining and trailing the Rams by 4.5 points, but Madison County wrestlers Dylan Berry (220 pounds) and Thomas Shifflett (285) beat their Eagles opponents to seal the victory for Strasburg.

“I knew it was going to be close, I just didn’t know how close,” said Rams senior Nic Campbell, who added that the Rams “kind of fell apart” in the second and semifinal rounds.

“In the consolation we started picking it back up and winning. Then we had all four champs in the finals, which really helped too. It was just barely enough.”

The Rams were a perfect 4-0 in the championship round, but head coach Mike Wood said it was Strasburg’s performance in the middle rounds of the tournament that made the difference on Saturday.

“We talked to the guys in the back and said, ‘Listen, tournaments are won in the wrestle-backs, always,'” Wood said. “That consolation semi round we were 7 for 7 with six pins. Then for third and fourth we went 6 for 7 with four pins. Then the finals we went 4-0. We were 17 for 18 the last three rounds with 13 pins. That powered us through.”

Strasburg trailed Clarke County by 4½ points heading into the finals but got an immediate boost when Kyle Sisk and Austin Cooper won their bouts at 106 and 113 pounds, respectively.

Sisk opened the finals with a 9-4 win over Warren County’s Brett Binnix, his first victory in three tries against the Wildcats senior this season.

“He’d given me a run for my money the first two times I wrestled him and I wanted to come out here, since it would be the last time I wrestled him, and just go out there and do my best. I did that,” Sisk said. “I took him down in the first period and I felt happy, and then it went on from there.”

Cooper immediately followed by pinning Clarke County’s Cody Scheenam in the second period, giving Strasburg some valuable bonus points and the team lead in the process.

“It’s pretty cool to come out here and win a district championship,” Cooper said.

“[I just wanted to get] some bonus points to keep our team in it.”

Three matches later, Campbell, a three-time state champ, claimed his fourth straight district title with a 4-1 win over Manassas Park’s Zac Treuting in the 132-pound final. Dean followed with a 6-2 decision win over Warren County’s Tyler Shanholtz in the 145-pound championship bout to cap Strasburg’s perfect run through the finals.

Earlier in the day, Dean became the first wrestler in Strasburg history to earn 200 career wins when he beat Clarke County’s William Heath 17-3 in the semifinal round.

“It felt really good. I didn’t even look up in the stands. I knew I was going to start smiling too much. I can’t be doing that while I’m up there,” Dean, who is 50-2 this season, said with a laugh. “But it felt really good. I’m glad I got that under me. It’s just been sitting at 198 for the last two weeks.”

Warren County junior Zach Beckner reached a milestone of his own on Saturday, as he earned his 100th career win with his 13-1 victory over Clarke County sophomore Bayne Gordon (last year’s Group 2A 106-pound state champ) in the 120-pound championship.

“It was awesome,” said Beckner, who improved to 38-1 on the season and was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. “Facing a good competitor like Bayne is always fun and to get [my 100th win] in the finals and at home was awesome. Just a lot of hard work to get to this point and I’ve got to keep climbing. Not done yet.”

Beckner was joined atop the podium by teammate Jacob Schneider, who won the 170-pound championship.

Schneider, who last won a district title two years ago when Warren County was a member of the Evergreen District, scored an early takedown against Manassas Park’s Nick Carter in Saturday’s final and got the pin in one minute, 31 seconds.

“My first goal was to get him to get an underhook on me. I have a decent throw and as soon as he gets the second one in I clinch and throw, and there’s the match,” Schneider said. “I’ve won eight of my matches this year from that throw.”

In addition to Binnix and Shanholtz, Warren County also got runner-up finishes from seniors Tristan Ward (152 pounds) and Jackie Beglane on Saturday. Beglane, the third seed at 160 pounds, lost a tough match against Clarke County’s Matt Cleary – a fourth-place finisher at last year’s Group 2A state tournament – in the finals. Cleary earned a 2-0 win by scoring a takedown in the final two seconds of the sudden-death overtime period.

“We had some upsets and did some good, but we also had a couple people that didn’t make it as far,” Wildcats coach Matt Wadas said. “It was good for what it was. It was a warm-up for next week, which really counts. We were a little disappointed, I thought we’d be a little higher but this is a tough district.”

Central junior Wyatt Robinson (126 pounds) and freshman Tyler Hedrick (132) led the Falcons with fourth-place finishes on Saturday, while Colton Lecraw (120) and Daniel George (152) placed fifth.

Warren County and Central return to the mat next Saturday for the Conference 28 tournament at Rock Ridge High School.

Strasburg will travel to Stonewall Jackson next weekend for the Conference 35 tournament.

“Us and Clarke will be at each other’s throats. They’re a great team,” Wood said. “Then at regional we’ll be at each other’s throats, then states. We’ve got three more weeks of this nerve-wracking, get-grey-hair stuff. But I’m proud of the guys. They did really well to battle back. We were down 50 points going into the [consolation] semis and we really made some ground up. That’s how you win a regional and state title.”

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