Rams’ Hodson ‘opening up’ on mat

Bradlee Hodson

STRASBURG – Like many of his Strasburg wrestling teammates, Bradlee Hodson gained some valuable experience when the Rams traveled to Pennsylvania for the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament at the end of December.

Though the Rams finished last among the field of 48 teams at the tournament – widely regarded as one of the top national events for high school wrestling in the country – it offered Strasburg a glimpse of what makes some of the nation’s best wrestlers so successful.

“I think that was pretty much a huge eye opener for the whole team,” Hodson said before practice on Monday.

“We’re kind of known as the big fish in the pond around here but compared nationally, when we went to something like that for the first time we saw what real hand fighting was and stuff like that. It was a huge eye opener for us seeing what it really was.”

Hodson applied some of his new-found knowledge on the mat last week, with great results.

The senior went 7-1 in the Rams’ eight dual matches, including a flawless 5-0 performance at the Strasburg Duals this past Saturday. Hodson’s performance in the ring earned him The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week honor for Jan. 4-10.

Hodson, whose lone loss last week came against Warren County during a quad match at Madison County High School last Wednesday, won four of his matches on Saturday via pin – three of which came in the first period – and earned another victory via major decision in the 145-pound class.

“I’ve opened up the last two or three weeks, ever since Powerade,” said Hodson, who was 22-8 prior to the Rams’ tri-match at Manassas Park on Tuesday. “And not only me, but the team has opened up. We’ve been hitting moves that Coach [Mike] Wood has been preaching to us to hit for two years. We’ve finally been hitting them and it’s showing.

“I think I was more aggressive, not only because of that but I was at [145 pounds]. Being at a lower weight class, I think that was just another confidence booster.”

Hodson, who normally competes at 152 pounds, dropped down a weight class last week to give two-time defending state champion Hunter Dean a chance to compete against some tougher competition on Saturday in the 152-pound class.

On Saturday, Hodson pinned Buffalo Gap’s Anthony Wolfe, Riverheads’ Samuel Nelson, Heritage’s Devon Nguyen and Clarke County’s Patrick Cleary. Hodson beat Wilson Memorial’s James Jones, 13-0.

The Rams as a team went 5-0 in the Strasburg Duals, topping the 10-team field.

“The biggest thing that’s sticking out is that ever since Powerade we’re starting to look like a completely different team,” Hodson said. “We’re hitting broomsticks, funks, moves that we have been taught not only this year but last year. … All the kids are hitting them and it’s definitely showing. And that’s what a lot of people are saying, is it’s showing. Not only in the room, what our coaches see, but the fans and other coaches see that we’re actually doing them. It’s really helping us.”

Hodson, who competed at 152 for the Rams last season, said his wrestling weight has been one of the biggest differences this year. Hodson said he consistently wrestled several pounds below weight last season, whereas this year he is right at the 152-pound mark.

Hodson said he is stronger as a result of the extra weight, and he hopes his physical growth this year will lead to better success in postseason matches. Hodson competed in the Region 2A East tournament last season, but was one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.

“Just missing going [to the state tournament] kind of gets you going a little bit hungry, not wanting to miss going his senior year especially,” Wood said. “This is his last shot, so I think he’s just trying to be more aggressive and push himself a little more.”

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