Rams finish third, Wildcats fourth, at Handley tournament

WINCHESTER–Iron sharpens iron, the Biblical verse says. And so it goes with Group 2A Strasburg, Clarke County and 3A Warren County.

The three programs see a good deal of each other during the season and all met Saturday at Handley’s Judges Invitational wrestling tournament.

In the end, Strasburg came out on top of the three, barely being edged out by the host school for the runner-up position, while Warren County came in at fourth and Clarke finished fifth.

“You know [Clarke County coach] Jon [Van Sice] and I were talking about it. We’re the two smallest schools here, and yet we have success,” Strasburg coach Mike Wood said. “It seems like it’s always us and Clarke, us and Clarke.

“We’re going to see them next weekend, then at conference, the regionals and at the states. We keep meeting them, but I guess it’s just a matter of iron sharpening iron. Isn’t that what they say?”

Already this season, the Rams and the Eagles have split two matches leading up to the Handley affair. Warren County had dropped Strasburg earlier, but the Rams rebounded in Winchester.

A year ago, Strasburg edged Warren County in the Bull Run District (all three belong to the same league), but then the two teams went on to different classifications in the post-season.

The Strasburg-Clarke County rivalry extended into the 2014 conference, regionals and state finals. Each time the Rams got the better of the Eagles, winning their conference, region and finishing runner-up in the state meet. Clarke was right behind in third place.

“We talk about it a lot. We’re the smallest schools here, and yet we come up with some good results,” Strasburg’s Nic Campbell said.

Campbell (132) and teammate Hunter Dean (145) were Judges Invitational champions; while charismatic Warren 113 pounder, Zach Beckner, topped his class. Beckner was named the most outstanding wrestler. He was joined in the winner’s circle by Wildcat body-opposite Connor McMackin, the Judges individual champ at 285.

“[Strasburg and Warren County] are scrappers,” said Beckner, who swept five matches by pin, the last coming over Clarke County’s Bayne Gordon at 1:14.

McMackin handled John Champe’s Elijah Bolden by fall at 1:17.

Meanwhile, Campbell dropped Kettle Run’s Jacob Foy by fall at 2:51 and Dean major decisioned Warren County’s Tyler Schanholtz 14-6 in a championship fall.

Perhaps the most intriguing match occurred in the semifinals between Dean and John Champ’s Devyn Kreb.

Dean, Strasburg’s all-time winningest wrestler, is a two-time state champion. He rarely has to go the full distance in his bouts, normally taking out lesser foes by pin in the early periods.

“It’s challenging to remain consistent,” said Dean. “Nic and I talk about it. We don’t often have to go the full three periods in our meets. It’s difficult, but our coach has us in great shape, so that when we do, we’re ready.”

Campbell won four straight here, all by pins. Dean won his five matches, pinning three.

Dean was forced into three periods in his latter two matches; first, by Kreb, then later by Schanholtz.

In his next-to-last outing of the grueling 10-hour tournament versus the youngster from John Champe, Dean found himself ahead 5-0 in the second frame. It was then that Dean literally picked up the muscular Kreb, turned him perpendicularly, then deposited him on the mat, but out-of-bounds.

“If I had dropped him in the circle, it would have meant some points,” Dean said.

Instead, the resounding thud brought a John Champe coach up on his feet to wrangle with the official, while the sizeable crowd seemed to draw its collective breath.

Nothing came of the commotion, but the lateral drop perhaps focused Dean on the job at hand.

In any event, he won the semifinal, 5-3, and then major decisioned Warren County nemesis Schanholtz in three periods.

“It’s tough going against him, sure; but I think he makes me better. I wouldn’t say it’s fun, but it’s a challenge,” said Schanholtz, who was 4-1 with two pins and a major decision. “He came up afterward and congratulated me.”

“I thought Tyler had a great day. In that last one, [Dean] maybe figured him out more than Tyler did [Dean],” Warren County coach Matt Wadas said. “But they’re friends. In fact our guys have a lot of respect for them, and vice-versa.

“I like Strasburg. It’s a good place. …I think both programs make each other better.”

Warren County, which like Strasburg, was wrestling with several competitors out with illness or injury, finished fourth after starting out in seventh place after three rounds. That meant that the Bull Run District’s three most competitive aggregations took three of the top five prizes.

Woodgrove led throughout the day to take the team championship while host Handley needed a win in its final match to edge Strasburg.

Woodgrove finished with 416 points followed by Handley (380.5), Strasburg (375.5), Warren County (369) and Clarke County (365.5).

“I hate to give up second place after we held onto it most of the match, but I have to commend the kids who came through for us,” Wood said.