Rams’ Campbell wins fourth championship; Dean, Cooper win titles
SALEM – Nic Campbell made it a goal the first time he stepped on the wrestling mat as a Strasburg High School freshman four years ago. On Friday night at Salem Civic Center, Campbell did it.
The Strasburg senior capped a stellar high school wrestling career with a state championship in the 132-pound class of the Group 2A tournament, becoming the first Ram to win four Virginia High School League state wrestling titles.
“It means a lot knowing that I could be the only four-timer in Strasburg history,” said Campbell, who finished his Strasburg career with a record of 194-8, including a 52-7 mark this season. “There’s only one first, everybody else is just going to be second, third. It’s just amazing knowing that we’ve had people come close and I’m the only one to do it.”
With the tournament being condensed into a one-day, single-elimination format (with the exception of a third-place match for the semifinal losers) due to Saturday’s snowy weather forecast, the road to his fourth state championship in Salem happened quickly for Campbell. So quickly, in fact, that he nearly missed the magnitude of what he had just accomplished after earning a 19-2 tech fall victory over Clarke County’s Brendan Ciaburri in the 132-pound final.
When the match was stopped with 35 seconds left in the third period, Campbell calmly removed his headgear and raised both arms in the air, briefly flashing a pair of fours to the Rams’ cheering section before leaving the mat. The Strasburg faithful made the senior return to the center of the ring and repeat the pose for pictures.
“It didn’t really feel like a finals match because it was a one-day thing, so I just kind of walked off the mat like it was nothing and then it just hit me and I was like, ‘Oh, wait,'” Campbell said with a laugh.
Friday’s 132-pound championship marked the third time Campbell and Ciaburri met on the mat this postseason. Campbell pinned Ciaburri in the Conference 35 and Region 2A East tournaments, but he couldn’t match that outcome in Salem despite earning near-fall points on five different occasions.
“I just thought I’d wrestle him hard, get some good wrestling in for my last match of high school,” said Campbell, who pinned his way through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds on Friday. “I pinned him both times before, so I was kind of shocked that I didn’t get it this time. But he’s a good wrestler, he knows how to fight off his back a lot.”
Campbell, who will wrestle next year at George Mason University, wasn’t the only Strasburg wrestler to reach a major milestone on Friday.
Fellow senior Hunter Dean joined an exclusive company of Rams wrestlers by winning his third straight state championship with a first-period pin against Martinsville’s Nate McKenzie in the 145-pound final. Dean joined his father, Troy, as one of five Strasburg wrestlers to win three state championships.
“The feeling was great. I think that one meant the most to me,” said Dean, who won state titles at 106 and 132 pounds as a sophomore and junior, respectively. “I tried not to think about it at all. It was my last match and I was just trying to think of it as just another match so I didn’t get too psyched up about it. But it felt great.”
Dean, Strasburg’s all-time leader in career wins (210-11), pinned his way through the first two rounds and repeated that outcome quickly against McKenzie. Dean scored a takedown 15 seconds into the match and eventually put both of McKenzie’s shoulders to the mat in 57 seconds.
“I watched his last match before I wrestled so I knew that he liked to hit a lot doubles, really fast and really strong,” Dean said. “I was looking for him to take that shot so I could counter to it, because defense is my best thing. I had it planned out. I did not think I was going to pin him in the first period but I guess it’s icing on the cake.”
Strasburg, which sent four wrestlers into the state championship round, also got a state title at 113 pounds from sophomore Austin Cooper, who earned a 5-4 decision over Clarke County’s Cody Schneeman in the finals.
Cooper said he entered Friday’s state final against Schneeman seeking revenge for his loss to the Clarke County senior in the regional championship, Cooper’s only loss to Schneeman in five meetings this winter.
“It was crazy. The whole third period felt so long. It felt good to win though,” Cooper said.
“I knew I had a shot coming into this year,” he added, “and I came out here and won it.”
Strasburg, which took an area-best six wrestlers to Salem, finished third in the team standings with 94 points. Clarke County (121 points) unseated three-time defending state champ Grundy (118.5 points) for the Group 2A team championship.
Rams sophomore Dylan Campbell wrestled to a runner-up finish in the 126-pound class, as he dropped a 10-0 decision to Grundy’s Maverick Coleman in the championship round.
Sisk placed third in the 106-pound class for Strasburg, and 120-pounder Brandon Swink fell victim to the tournament’s single-elimination format with a first-round loss.
Stonewall Jackson’s Kyle Cowart placed fourth in the 152-pound class as the Generals’ lone representative in Salem.
“Wish we would’ve had a little bit more supporting cast out here to help us. Some of guys fell short last week [at the regional tournament], but the future’s good,” Wood said. “We’re going to be returning 11. … We’re going to be having a good group of about 14 or 15 next year. Other than not having our couple studs that we know wherever we go we’re in the mix, we’re going to be very balanced.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org