Wildcat wrestlers top Rams, Dragons in district duals

Warren County's D.J. Almarode pins Strasburg's Levi Miller in 0:52 in the heavyweight class during wrestling on Wednesday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily
Strasburg's Dylan Campbell takes control of Warren County's John Coffron during their 138-pound. match on Jan. 13 in Front Royal. Strasburg will participate in the Shenandoah County meet on Wednesday at Stonewall jackson. Rich Cooley/Daily file
Warren County's Nathan Johnson takes control of Strasburg's Josh Pritchett during the 220-pound match on Wednesday night in Front Royal. Johnson won the match 6-2. Rich Cooley/Daily
Warren County's Connor Jost controls Strasburg's Ben Rodriguez in the 145-pound match on Jan. 13 in Front Royal. Jost won the match 7-1. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County sophomore wrestler Nathan Johnson says the Wildcats have continuously surprised themselves with their improvement each time they’ve stepped onto the mat this season. That trend continued in Wednesday night’s Bull Run District tri-match with visiting Strasburg and William Monroe.

After rolling through William Monroe 79-0 in their first match of the evening, the Wildcats followed with a 51-15 victory over the Rams in what figured to be a matchup of two of the strongest teams in the Bull Run.

“We did a lot better than we expected,” Johnson said after the win. “Everyone on the team just did what they were supposed to do. We got the pins we needed, nobody gave up anything. I’m pretty sure nobody got pinned. It’s an excellent feeling.”

Strasburg, wrestling without three starters and thus forfeiting a trio of matches against the Wildcats, opened the dual against Warren County with a 7-0 lead, as defending 2A state champion Austin Cooper bumped up a class to 132 to pick up a 5-3 decision over Bobby Hunger and Dylan Campbell beat John Coffron by major decision, 17-3, in the 138-pound bout.

But the Wildcats took over from there.

Connor Jost got things rolling for Warren County with a 7-1 win over Ben Rodriguez at 145 pounds, which started a run of nine wins in 10 bouts for the Wildcats, a victorious streak broken only by Rams junior Ethan Duckworth’s 8-0 major decision over Seth Jacobs at 170.

Sophomore Wyatt Gill followed Jost with a first-period pin over Javian Moore at 152 pounds, the first of four pins for the Wildcats in the win. Gill emerged on the scoring side of a scramble with Moore early in the first period before scoring the fall with 36 seconds left in the opening frame to give Warren County a 9-7 advantage.

“Our coach (Matt Wadas) before the match said that we really need pins, it’s gonna come down to pins against Strasburg, so I was gonna go for a pin,” said Gill, who is second on the team with 17 pins this winter. “Basically he’s tough and he’s quick, and one of my coaches said that he’s gonna try to underhook you and throw you, but he said that I was better at underhooks. I basically did what I do always – underhook – and tried to get him.”

Wildcats junior Michael White delivered his team’s second straight pin in the 160-pound bout against senior Corie Baker. White built a 6-1 lead over Baker after two periods before getting him in a bear hug early in the third frame, dropping Baker directly on his back and locking in the pin at 4:22.

“It wasn’t intentional to do that, it was just he slipped,” White said. “He had a good move on me, he just slipped right off and he went straight to his back. He’s a really good wrestler. I cannot wait to wrestle him again. I think we might wrestle again this weekend at (the Handley Invitational).”

Senior Zach Smith, one of four Wildcats recognized on senior night, pulled out a close 3-2 decision over Strasburg’s Zach Scott at 195 pounds. Smith appeared to injure his left knee just a few seconds into the first period but was able to finish the bout. He was on crutches after the match was over.

Johnson gave his team a 27-11 lead with five matches remaining when he beat Strasburg’s Josh Pritchett 6-2 in the 220-pound matchup. Johnson, who has spent most of his time at heavyweight this year but dropped down against Strasburg after the Rams shifted their lineup to start the match, scored a takedown in each of the first two periods to build a 4-2 lead. After choosing the bottom position to start the final period, Johnson scored a reversal 15 seconds in and held on for the win.

“He’s very strong with very good defense,” said Johnson, who improved to 22-3 with a pair of wins Wednesday. “I had to do lots of moves I don’t usually do. I had to do lots of sweeps, firemen. … I wore him out though. I kept working him and working him and he just gave up at the end.”

D.J. Almarode gave Warren County a 33-11 lead with a first-period pin over Levi Miller at 285, and Wildcats freshman Hunter Jost picked up his 16th pin of the year with a fall over Austin Stickles at 106.

“I also thought a couple of our guys who lost (did well),” Wadas said. “Bobby Hunger at 132 going up against a state champ, only losing a decision, not even a major decision, and that’s what I said to the team before the match. I said we’ve gotta do the same thing we did against Brentsville (last Saturday). If we don’t get pinned and we pin in our opportunities I think we win, and I think the kids did that and I think that’s why the score was a little lopsided.”

Strasburg’s Brandon Swink scored a 15-7 major decision over Ian Brannock at 120 before the Rams’ third forfeit closed out the night.

“It’s disappointing because you know you’re better than that,” Rams coach Mike Wood said. “We had three kids tonight let us down, let the team down pretty much, losing close matches. You just can’t do that.

“It’d be nice if we could get full strength and wrestle everybody in the lineup.”

Wood, whose team beat William Monroe 60-15 in the first match Wednesday evening, added his team needs to become tougher mentally on the mat.

“We’re not mentally tough. We’re not physical enough. That’s gotta change come about four weeks,” Wood said. “If we don’t change that in four weeks it’s gonna be hard to contend with better teams.”

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

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