Year in Review: Another memorable year for local sports

Strasburg senior Nic Campbell celebrates his fourth state wrestling championship after winning the Group 2A 132-pound championship at Salem Civic Center. Brad Fauber/Daily file
Staunton's shortstop Kam Gellinger misses the tag on Strasburg's Trevor Rucker as Rucker steals second base during the second game of the VBL championship series on Aug. 5 in Strasburg. The Express won the title. Rich Cooley/Daily file
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
Sherando junior linebacker Dylan Rivers verbally committed to play football at Penn State in November. The junior had 14 Division I offers. Rich Cooley/Daily file


The past year in local sports has been yet another successful one. Championships were won, national events were held in the area, big college decisions were made, and many coaching changes were made at all levels of local sports.

Here’s a look at the top sports stories of 2015 (in chronological order) as selected by The Northern Virginia Daily’s sports staff:

1. Strasburg’s Nic Cambell won his fourth straight state wrestling title in February. He became the first-ever Strasburg wrestler to win four state wrestling titles. He defeated Clarke County’s Brendan Ciaburri, 19-2, to win the 132-pound Group 2A state title.

Campbell is now wrestling as a freshman at George Mason University. He finished his high school career with a 194-8 record, including 52-7 in his senior season.

2. The championship theme continued in Strasburg over the summer as Valley Baseball League’s Strasburg Express won its first VBL title. The Express only went 21-21 in the regular season, but peaked at the perfect time.

The Express won the VBL championship series, 2-1, over the Staunton Braves. It was only the fifth season of existence for the Express. Strasburg beat Aldie and Front Royal to advance to its second VBL championship appearance in three seasons.

3. Strasburg’s Campbell wasn’t the only area wrestler to win a state title in 2015. There were five other wrestlers who won a state title in February, including Campbell’s teammates Hunter Dean and Austin Cooper. Warren County’s Zach Beckner, Skyline’s Gerren Butler and Sherando’s John Borst also won state titles. The state wrestling tournament was reduced from a two-day event to a one-day, single-elimination event due to the weather forecast.

Dean won the 145-pound Group 2A title with a 57-second pin over Martinsville’s Nate McKenzie in the final. Cooper, now a junior for the Rams, beat Clarke County’s Cody Schneeman, 5-4, to win the 113-pound Group 2A title. Beckner, now a senior, won the Group 3A 113-pound state title with a 10-2 win over Brookville’s Aston Brown. He became only the second Warren County wrestler to win a state title. Butler, who is currently a redshirt freshman offensive lineman on James Madison University’s football team, won the Group 3A 285-pound state title. He beat Christiansburg’s Tanner Whitesell with a first-period pin to become the second Skyline wrestler to claim a state title. Borst, now a junior for the Warriors, avenged an earlier loss to Glen Allen’s Chip Sturek to win the 170-pound Group 4A state title with an overtime victory.

4. Wrestlers weren’t the only ones winning state titles in 2015. Strasburg’s Cody Darr and Sherando’s Trent McCarty each won an outdoor track and field state title in June. Darr won the Group 2A 200-meter run, while McCarty was the Group 4A discus state champion.

Darr ran his fastest time of the season in the state finals, a 21.66, to finish off his high school career in impressive fashion. McCarty threw a 151-04 to win his first state title. He entered the meet as the favorite and lived up to his seeding.

5. Strasburg’s baseball team advanced to the Group 2A state tournament for the second year in a row in 2015. The Rams came up short to Lebanon High School, 8-2, in the state semifinals.

The Rams won the Conference 35 and Region 2A East titles for the second year in a row. They finished with a stellar 25-2 record and went a combined 49-4 in the last two seasons.

6. Sherando junior Dylan Rivers committed verbally to play at Penn State University. Rivers announced his decision the morning after the Warriors’ season ended. He had 14 Division 1 scholarship offers to choose from.

Rivers, who was also The Northern Virginia Daily’s Defensive Player of the Year, visited Penn State on Sept. 26 and knew then that was where he wanted to play in college. The linebacker will officially sign in Febrauary 2017.

7. ESPN’s “College GameDay” came to Harrisonburg in October for the Richmond at JMU football game. It was only the eighth time in the show’s history that it came to a non-Football Bowl Subdivision school. The Dukes were undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the country at the time, while Richmond was ranked 12th.

The university said there were 12,000 people there. The show’s producer Lee Fitting was a JMU graduate. The Dukes lost the game 59-49 to the Spiders, and star quarterback Vad Lee to a season-ending injury. The Dukes finished 9-3 and lost in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

8. The Strasburg Express hired former Major League Baseball player Charlie Hayes to be manager of the 2016 team. Hayes served as Strasburg’s director of scouting in 2015, and helped Strasburg establish a nationwide scouting network. Hayes also taught at a camp in Strasburg in June.

Hayes will be allowed to take some days off during the summer so he can watch his son, Ke’Bryan, play for the Class A West Virginia Power in Charleston next summer. The Express won their first VBL championship in 2015.

9. Things didn’t go quite the way Erick Green wanted them to in 2015, but he still made the most of his opportunities. The Millbrook standout was released by the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 5. However, he landed with the Reno Bighorns on Nov. 21. The Bighorns are a Sacramento Kings affiliate in the NBA Development League.

Green is averaging 27.7 points per game with the Bighorns in 12 games played. He has started 11 games for the team, and is averaging 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest as well.

10. There were plenty of coaching changes in the offseason for the area teams. There are a total of 15 new coaches among the six local public schools, after only having six the year before. Basketball was the sport that was hit the hardest as there are three new boys basketball coaches (Skyline, Stonewall Jackson and Warren County) and two new girls basketball coaches (Central and Strasburg).

One of the most notable changes was the retirement of long-time Stonewall Jackson coach Dick Krol. He was replaced by Jay Goode, which was the only new coach in football. Goode and the Generals went 1-9, but were competitive in many games this season.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

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