Wildcats’ Beckner, Hawks’ Butler win wrestling titles

Warren County junior Zach Beckner attempts to pin Brookville's Ashton Brown in the Group 3A 113-pound state wrestling championship Friday at Salem Civic Center. Beckner won the match, 10-2. Brad Fauber/Daily

SALEM – It wasn’t going to happen for the second year in a row. Not if Zach Beckner could help it.

One year after Beckner lost the Group 3A 106-pound wrestling state championship to Brookville’s Reid Stewart – his only loss of the 2013-14 season – the Warren County High School junior got another shot at a wrestler from the Lynchburg school during Friday’s state tournament at Salem Civic Center.

And the second time was a much different outcome.

Beckner methodically built a comfortable lead over Brookville’s Aston Brown in the 113-pound championship final on Friday night, eventually earning a 10-2 major decision to become just the second Warren County wrestler to win a Virginia High School League state championship.

“I really just had the mindset going in that I didn’t want to lose to Brookville again,” said Beckner. “I lost to Brookville last year in the finals and I just told myself there was no way that was happening again. I didn’t want to lose to Brookville a second year in a row. I’ve just been working so hard for this and to finally get it, it’s just a feeling of like, wow. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s awesome. A lot of hard to work to get here. I have to thank everybody.”

Warren County's Zach Beckner celebrates with Wildcats wrestling coach Matt Wadas after Beckner's victory in the Group 3A 113-pound championship earlier this year at Salem Civic Center. Brad Fauber/Daily file

Beckner, who finished his junior season with a record of 44-1, scored a takedown on Brown 30 seconds into the 113-pound final and extended his lead to 8-0 with three back points in the final seconds of the second period. Beckner scored another takedown early in the final period to take a 10-0 lead before Brown scored a late reversal.

“At the very beginning I was feeling him out. He felt a little bit stronger than I was expecting him to be. But then when I started really feeling him out I realized, ‘Hey, I can get this kid,'” Beckner said.

“I got a turk there after a while. I don’t know, coach really told me just to keep doing my belief and eventually you’ll just break their mind. Their mental game will just fade away. And that’s what happened, and I’m glad.”

Skyline High School also notched its second individual state champion in the school’s history at the 3A tournament, as senior Gerren Butler claimed the 285-pound title with a first-period pin against Christiansburg freshman Tanner Whitesell.

Butler, who will play football at James Madison University this fall, only just joined Skyline’s wrestling team last season at the urging of Hawks head coach Matt Keel.

Skyline senior Gerren Butler, left, grapples with Christiansburg's Tanner Whitesell during the Group 3A 285-pound state wrestling championship Friday at Salem Civic Center. Butler won the title with a first-round pin. Brad Fauber/Daily

“Last year it was just about Coach Keel’s persuasiveness and persistence just to get me to even come out on the wrestling team. It wasn’t even a thought in my mind of joining the team, let alone even winning a state championship,” said Butler, who finished his senior season with a record of 27-4.

“The state championship right now, it’s just a great feeling. It’s kind of like I just won the Super Bowl for little kids,” he added with a laugh.

Butler said Whitesell came out aggressively in the heavyweight championship, as the Christiansburg freshman head butted Butler on several different occasions while both wrestlers were on their feet.

“He head butted three times actually and then I backed out of bounds, calmed down. Then he did it again and I got mad, threw little punches in there,” Butler said. “The ref warned me about it so I remembered it was the state championship. I’m not worried about a head butt. I’m just trying to get a title.”

Butler responded by tripping Whitesell for a takedown with 35 seconds left in the first period, and the Skyline senior sealed the championship with a pin 15 seconds later.

Skyline senior Gerren Butler celebrates after winning the Group 3A 285-pound state wrestling championship Friday at Salem Civic Center. Brad Fauber/Daily

“There are a ton of people that should be extremely surprised with that outcome, [Butler] not being one,” Keel said. “He is, but he shouldn’t be.”

The Hawks sent two other wrestlers into the championship finals, as seniors Noah Goss and Josiah Huston earned runner-up finishes. Goss lost a 9-0 major decision to Christiansburg’s Hunter Bolen – his second loss to Bolen this season – in the 138-pound championship. Huston lost a close 3-2 decision to unbeaten Ross Graham, of Poquoson, in the 170-pound final.

“Second in the state, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. They all wrestled a stud,” Keel said. “Noah wrestled a really, really good kid. Joey wrestled his butt off.”

Skyline senior Caleb VanDoren placed fourth in the 145-pound class. The Hawks as a team finished in sixth place with 57 points, while Warren County (22.5) was 12th. Christiansburg (153) ran away with the 3A team title, finishing nearly 70 points better than runner-up Cave Spring.

Friday’s tournament was condensed into a one-day, single-elimination format (with the exception of a third-place match for semifinal losers) due to Saturday’s snowy weather forecast, and six local wrestlers fell victim to first-round losses in the 3A tournament on Friday.

Skyline's Josiah Huston, right, works to control Poquoson's Ross Graham during the Group 3A 170-pound state wrestling championship Friday at Salem Civic Center. Huston lost the match, 3-2. Brad Fauber/Daily

Skyline’s Justin Cornwell (113) and Central’s Colton Lecraw (120) each suffered early defeats, as did Warren County’s Brett Binnix (106), John Coffron (126), Jacob Schneider (170) and Connor McMackin (285).

“It was disappointing with the single elimination,” Warren County coach Matt Wadas said. “I really felt like we had three of those kids that would’ve been on the podium somewhere else. It’s disappointing to see that happen. We understand the weather but it’s disappointing that this is how it ended. But the kids wrestled tough today, wrestled kids above their seed and I thought we came out with some close ones. We’re proud of how we wrestled.”

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

Skyline's Noah Goss, bottom, struggles against the grip of Christiansburg's Hunter Bolen during the Group 3A 138-pound state wrestling championship Friday at Salem Civic Center. Goss lost the match, 9-0. Brad Fauber/Daily