Rams pursue state wrestling team title

Strasburg’s goal as a team all season long has been to win the school’s first state wrestling championship in 15 years. The Rams now face an uphill climb to get there.

Strasburg fell short of winning its third straight regional title last weekend when the Rams lost the Region 2A East championship by a point to Clarke County, and the Rams qualified fewer wrestlers than coach Mike Wood expected for this weekend’s Group 2A state tournament at Salem Civic Center.

The Rams, last year’s state runner-up, will have to get the most out of their six state qualifiers in order to keep pace with Clarke County (10 state qualifiers) and three-time defending state champion Grundy (seven state qualifiers).

“We’ve got six guys, six as good as anybody else. We’re going to go down and our goal is to try to get everybody in the finals,” Wood said on Wednesday. “If we can get everybody in the finals, we still have an outside chance where we can still win it. We’ve made it a little bit hard on ourselves, but we’ve still got enough talent going down there that we can win it.”

The Group 2A state tournament will be held in conjunction with the 1A, 3A and 4A state competitions at Salem Civic Center on Friday and Saturday. Due to the anticipation of snow and ice in the Salem area on Saturday, the Virginia High School League announced Thursday morning that the quarterfinals have been moved up to 3 p.m. Friday, with the semifinals scheduled to be held Friday night at 8:30 p.m. and the state championship finals scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Those times are subject to change due to weather conditions.

Strasburg’s six state qualifiers are the most among local public schools, and the Rams had an area-best four region champions last weekend. Kyle Sisk (106 pounds) and Dylan Campbell (126 pounds) each won their first regional titles for the Rams and will make their second trips to Salem, while seniors Hunter Dean (145) and Nic Campbell (132) won their third and fourth consecutive regional championships, respectively.

Austin Cooper (113) and Brandon Swink (120) also qualified for the state tournament with runner-up finishes for Strasburg this past weekend.

Dean is eyeing his third straight state title, while Nic Campbell heads to Salem seeking to become the first Strasburg wrestler to win four state championships. Wood said he has encouraged Nic Campbell to push away any thoughts regarding his quest for a fourth state title to prevent any unnecessary pressure.

“He’s good enough where he wrestles and nobody can wrestle with him,” Wood said. “Him and Hunter are in a unique situation. They could technically pin their way through the state tournament and I told them they need to do that for us to have a shot at winning. So they’re coming out with the mindset to go out there and get right on their opponents, get us bonus points and get off the mat and get on to the next match.”

Cross-town rivals Warren County and Skyline will each send five wrestlers to the Group 3A tournament after placing fourth and fifth, respectively, at last weekend’s Region 3A East tournament at New Kent High School.

Warren County’s Zach Beckner (113 pounds), who is 45-1 this season, was the lone Wildcat to win a regional title at New Kent, but he will be joined in Salem by teammates Brett Binnix (106), John Coffron (126), Jacob Schneider (170) and Connor McMackin (285).

Beckner, last season’s 106-pound runner-up at 3A, and Schneider are both making return trips to the state tournament after qualifying last season. Coffron (15-20 this season), meanwhile, continued his magical postseason run — which included a Conference 28 championship — with a runner-up finish at the regional tournament last weekend and is one of three Wildcats making their first state tournament appearance.

“Obviously Beckner has had a great year. He has had a great postseason and just wants to keep the same intensity and focus in Salem,” Warren County coach Matt Wadas said. “But I think they all have a shot to do big things. All the kids have been on great runs — I would love to see all of them on the podium. Some may be underdogs in their classes, but John Coffron has shown how that can work out the past two weeks.”

Skyline’s Noah Goss (138) won his second straight Region 3A East championship last weekend and will be joined by fellow seniors and region second-place finishers Justin Cornwell (113), Caleb VanDoren (145), Josiah Huston (170) and Gerren Butler (285).

Goss, Huston and VanDoren are each making their third consecutive state tournament appearance for the Hawks. Goss was the 132-pound state runner-up last year.

“I would like to see them wrestle the same as they have all year,” Skyline coach Matt Keel said. “Each of the five guys are very different wrestlers. They need to stick to what has won them big matches in the past.”

Sherando, coming off a sixth-place effort in the Region 4A North tournament last weekend, is sending four wrestlers to the Group 4A state tournament.

Sophomore John Borst (170) and senior Ben Avery (285) each won regional championships for the Warriors, while Jeremiah Platts (106) and Curtis Guthridge (126) qualified for the state tournament with fourth-place finishes last weekend.

Borst, the area’s pin leader (54-2 this season, 47 pins), and Avery are both traveling to Salem for the second straight year.

“With us taking four, unlike last year there are no aspirations for us contending for any team titles,” Warriors coach Pepper Martin said. “We have to focus on the individual aspect of the tournament. We’re taking four and what we’d like to have accomplished when we come back on Saturday night is we’d like to come back with at least one state champion and everybody placing. That’s our goal going in.”

Junior Kyle Cowart is the only Group 2A state qualifier for Stonewall Jackson this season after his third-place finish at 152 pounds in the Region 2A East tournament.

Junior Colton Lecraw (120) will be Central’s lone Group 3A representative following his fourth-place regional finish.

To accommodate for the lack of practice time due to weather, the VHSL has adjusted the weight allowance protocol to be more lenient at this weekend’s state tournament. The VHSL has also trimmed the number of individual medal winners in each weight class from eight to six this season.

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