Goss seeks strong close to senior year

Skyline High School wrestler Noah Goss spars with teammate Caleb VanDoren during a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – When Noah Goss’ junior season ended with a loss in the Group 3A 132-pound state wrestling championship a year ago, he took some time to reflect on his accomplishments and then cleared the entire 2013-14 season from his mind.

It wasn’t that Goss was eager to forget his junior season with Skyline High School. He wasn’t ashamed of how it ended – there was no shame to be felt in Goss’ tech-fall loss in the state title bout to Christiansburg’s Coy Ozias, a four-time state champ who, at the time, was preparing to continue his stellar wrestling career at Princeton University.

Goss just wanted to move on and focus on his senior season.

“Basically, I took that last season and I felt good about it. I saw that I did good but I knew that there was always room to improve. So I took that season, just kind of threw it away and geared up for this season,” Goss said before Skyline’s practice on Monday afternoon. “I started training, kept training and now we’re here.”

For Goss, “here” is preparing to defend his 2014 regional championship as he and 12 of his Skyline teammates gear up for the Region 3A East tournament on Friday and Saturday at New Kent High School.

Skyline High School wrestler Noah Goss, right, spars with teammate Caleb VanDoren during a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

Goss’ push for a second straight regional title is just the next step in his ultimate quest for his first state championship during his senior year, and it comes a week after he defended his Conference 28 crown with a 6-3 decision over Loudoun Valley’s Cade Kiely in the 138-pound conference championship last Saturday at Rock Ridge High School.

Goss is 37-3 on the mat this season with 22 pins and four tech falls, much of that success a result of a busy offseason that included trips to various wrestling camps, an appearance in the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, North Carolina, and countless hours in the weight room.

But Goss also got a wake-up call of sorts in Skyline’s own Elite Opener tournament on Dec. 6. During that season-opening event, Goss suffered two of his three losses this season as he dropped matches to Christiansburg’s Hunter Bolen and longtime rival Jeff Stone, of Colonial Forge.

“I knew those two matches were definitely going to be tough but after that I saw it and I was like, ‘Alright, so this is where I am. I’ve got to get here. I have to work that hard to get to that point and I’ve got to push beyond if I’m going to beat those guys,'” Goss recalled. “So I just took those two losses and kind of used it as my fuel to train. So I trained and trained and it’s paid off so far. I didn’t lose a match until the Christiansburg tournament [on Jan. 17].”

Since the Elite Opener, Goss has won individual championships at the Dudley Martin Classic at Brentsville High School — where he also earned most outstanding wrestler for the lightweights after winning his fourth title at the event — and the Battle at the Bridge tournament at Woodbridge, in addition to his conference championship last weekend.

Skyline High School wrestler Noah Goss, top, spars with teammate Caleb VanDoren during a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hawks head coach Matt Keel said that one of the things that makes Goss successful is that when he is in neutral, he puts on constant pressure.

“When he’s in neutral, the idea is he’s very difficult to take down because he really doesn’t let people breathe. He’s on them,” Keel said. “It’s not like he’s just shooting, but it’s constant hand fighting, constant setups and constant attacks, and he’s got re-shots out of that. That tends to help him be successful in neutral.”

Keel added that Goss is a formidable opponent on the ground as well, particularly when he’s in a dominant position.

“He’s tough to wrestle on bottom,” Keel said. “Last year he got tech-falled by a guy, four-time state champ and full ride to Princeton. That guy’s at a national level and he didn’t want to be underneath Noah. So he is really good on top. He’s got this monkey grip beyond anybody else … that I’ve coached. That’s a big deal in wrestling, that grip. He’s got old man, construction worker, farmer grip.”

But just important as Goss’ on-the-mat skill are the intangibles that he brings to Skyline’s wrestling team.

The Hawks were in a peculiar situation entering the 2014-15 season, as several wrestlers figured to be working toward state championships while most of them were simply seeking their first varsity win.

Skyline’s inexperience made the leadership roles of Goss and fellow Hawks veterans like Justin Cornwell, Josiah Huston and Caleb VanDoren all the more important, but Keel said it wasn’t until about two or three weeks into the season that the seniors truly realized the importance of their status as team captains and leaders. It was at that time that Keel met with the seniors to drive home the importance of the teams’ success in addition to their personal goals.

After that meeting, Keel said, a “light was switched” for Goss.

“A lot of people know what’s on the mat, but when anybody talks about him one of the first things you say is that he’s just got the highest level of character,” Keel said of Goss. “He’s a very honorable kid. When he says something, he does it. Shows up on time. Helps others. All of the off-the-mat stuff that you really try and instill in these kids is important to him and he follows through with it.”

Goss’ leadership, as well as that of Skyline’s other veteran seniors, has helped the Hawks qualify wrestlers for 13 of the 14 weight classes at the Region 3A East tournament. Goss’ next move is to work his way to a second straight regional title, with hopefully even bigger things on the horizon.

“I’ve just got to take it one step at a time,” Goss said. “The next step is my first match at regions. Then the next step is the second match. I’ve just got to take it one match at a time. Hopefully I come to wrestle 100 percent. I’ve just got to do my hardest. I’ve got to make sure I’m outworking my competition. That’s the big thing to do. You’ve got to train harder than anybody in the state. I’m trying. Hopefully I’m doing it.”

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