Campbell ends career as four-time champ

Nic Campbell

STRASBURG – The magnitude of what Nic Campbell accomplished last Friday night took a few days to sink in.

When it happened, the Strasburg High School senior hardly took time to relish the moment. As the final second ticked off the clock in the third period of Campbell’s tech fall victory over Clarke County’s Brendan Ciaburri in the Group 2A 132-pound state wrestling championship, Campbell calmly removed his head gear, strode to the edge of the circle, raised both arms in the air and held up four fingers to a rousing ovation from the group of Strasburg wrestling fans who made the trip to Salem Civic Center.

Then it was over. Campbell shook hands with Clarke County’s coaching staff, traded handshakes with Rams head coach Mike Wood and assistant coach Frank Cooper, and left the mat.

It wasn’t until a couple days ago that the reality of Campbell’s accomplishment fully hit him — with the win, he became the only four-time wrestling state champion in the history of Strasburg High School.

“It just seems to get more and more important as people say it to me,” said Campbell, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Feb. 15-21, after school on Tuesday afternoon.

Campbell’s 19-2 win over Ciaburri — his third over the Clarke County junior in three postseason meetings this winter — was a bittersweet end to an illustrious four-year career for the senior, who will wrestle on scholarship for George Mason University later this year.

Last Friday’s state tournament was condensed into a one-day, single elimination event due to the threat of inclement weather, so the championship finals contained none of the glitz and glamour that Campbell had grown accustomed to during his three previous trips to Salem. There was no “walk of champions,” no pre-finals introductions — nothing to distinguish the championship round from the myriad matches that were crammed into the 8-hour event.

“I kind of missed it,” Campbell said in Salem of the ceremony that generally precedes the state finals, “but then again I’m kind of glad it was one day just to get it over with.”

The tournament’s weather-related restructuring — which drew the ire of many coaches, wrestlers and parents — did not cheapen Campbell’s achievement, which Wood said provides a great springboard for the young wrestlers coming up through Strasburg’s program.

“They’ve had so many three-timers and for Nic to get it a fourth time is just a great accomplishment anywhere, really,” Wood said in Salem. “The good thing about that is it’s great for Nic, it’s great for his family, but it’s a good thing now that it’s a goal for some of these younger kids that are coming through our program that are going to be pretty darn good, to look at and say, ‘I would like to be up there, too.’ It’s good because it’s now a goal that’s set at the school.

“He’s the first one, and it can take a long time to break that,” he added. “That will be a tough one.”

Campbell’s state championship capped a tournament run that saw him pin his way into the finals in his first two matches. The senior pinned Martinsville’s Lorenz Hill in the second period of the 132-pound quarterfinal match, and Campbell’s pin of Wilson Memorial’s Eric Calvert in 2:23 in the semifinals sent him to the championship round.

He nearly pinned Ciaburri multiple times in the finals but had to settle for back points on five different occasions.

Campbell’s flawless postseason run this winter was the fourth of his career, but he admitted that he needed a wake-up call earlier this season. Campbell, who underwent shoulder surgery last April and was sidelined from any wrestling activities until October, suffered seven losses during the first half of his senior season. He had lost one match in his first three years combined.

Campbell said he’s frustrated by the losses — the fact that he ended up six wins shy of 200 for his career doesn’t help — but he added that he’s glad he got to experience that adversity while his senior season was still young.

“Having it early in the season let me get my confidence up coming toward the postseason,” Campbell said. “That really helped me with my motivation toward everything. And it gave me time to work on it and get better so I could do better in the postseason, and that’s exactly what I did.”

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