Wildcats rumble through Falcons, Mustangs in district tri

WOODSTOCK – Warren County senior Zach Smith has had some bad luck with minor injuries on the wrestling mat in his last couple matches.

In a dual last week against Strasburg, Smith hurt his left knee after slamming it hard to the mat in the opening seconds of his 195-pound bout. On Tuesday against George Mason during a Bull Run District tri-match at Central High School – his first since the knee injury – Smith took a shot to the groin in the opening period. Both times the senior fought through the injuries, and both times he left the mat victorious.

On Tuesday it was a 3-1 decision over George Mason’s Jack Dana, as Smith finished as one of 11 Wildcats to go unbeaten in a pair of runaway victories over the Mustangs (57-9) and Central (71-0). Central also fell to Mason, 42-24, to go winless in the two matches.

Smith, who is pursuing a future in the U.S. Army, said he tries to block out the pain of any bumps and bruises he accumulates during a match.

“Basically just get up and go wrestle,” said Smith, who added he’s still feeling the effects of his knee injury. “It’s gonna hurt after, so just go through, wrestle, get done with the match. You don’t feel it much (during the match) but afterward you feel it pretty bad.”

Warren County built a 26-9 lead against George Mason after victories by Zach Beckner (pin, 126 pounds), Nick Herring (decision, 138), Connor Jost (tech fall, 145), Michael White (pin, 160) and Seth Jacobs (pin, 170) before Smith stepped to the mat for his 195-pound bout.

Smith built a 2-0 lead after pulling and flipping Dana into a takedown with 45 seconds left in the first period, but took the shot below the belt 20 seconds later and needed an injury timeout prior to a restart. Dana cut the deficit to 2-1 in the second period with an escape. Smith chose the bottom position to begin the third period and earned his own escape point with 32 seconds remaining before sprawling against three takedown attempts by Dana over the final 30 seconds.

“I just knew I had to stay away from his takedowns,” Smith said of Dana. “He wasn’t as physically built, as physically dominant as I figured he would be, so my game plan was just to stay away from him, wait for the perfect opportunity. I almost got caught there at the beginning and then basically from there it was, after I got hurt a little bit, ride out the match.”

D.J. Almarode (220), Nathan Johnson (285), Hunter Jost (106) and Kevin Cruz (113) each followed with pins before Ian Brannock capped the opening 57-9 win with an 11-3 major decision.

George Mason’s lone win that didn’t come via forfeit against Warren County came the 182-pound matchup that pitted Mustangs senior Hunter Sulc – last season’s Group 2A state runner-up – and Wildcats senior Jacob Schneider, a two-time 3A state qualifier. Sulc held off Schneider for a 6-2 victory.

Warren County head coach Matt Wadas said Schneider showed some rust after not wrestling this past weekend at Handley due to a military obligation.

“What we’ve gotta know is we’re the underdog in the next match,” Wadas said of the 182-pound match. “We’ve gotta act like that and got to have a little bit of hunger next time because (Sulc’s) good and that kid’s gonna be good in the state this year.”

In the Wildcats’ shutout over Central, all but one of Warren County’s victories came via forfeit or pin. The Wildcats finished with 12 pins total in the two matches, including two each from Hunter Jost, White and Almarode.

“Our team is very good with pins,” said Connor Jost, who had a first-period fall against Central. “We know when to play around and when to get pins. (Central’s) team was good … so our team knows when to get pins and tonight we did it.”

Wadas, whose team has lost just one dual match this season, said the Wildcats are a “good dual team” but wants to see that success translate into the fast approaching postseason, bracket-style tournaments.

“In tournaments teams can be good with four or five guys, so we need to understand where we are and what we need to do at the next level and not rest on being a good dual team. I wanna be a good tournament team,” Wadas said.

Central, which was without a handful of wrestlers due to injuries and illness, fielded a six-man lineup on Tuesday. Five of those six wrestlers picked up wins against the Mustangs in their first match of the evening.

A.J. Crider, one of four honored on senior night for the Falcons, picked up a 7-5 decision at 145 pounds to cut George Mason’s lead to 6-3 after two bouts, and senior Daniel George followed with a quick pin at 152 pounds to give Central a brief 9-6 lead.

A trio of forfeits and a pin by Sulc over Dravon Bowman at 195 pounds gave the Mustangs a 24-9 lead before senior Corwin Gonzalez picked up a pin for the Falcons at 220. After hand fighting dominated most of the first period of Gonzalez’s match with Eddie Pacheco, Gonzalez started gaining control of Pacheco after a scramble near the edge of the circle. Gonzalez, who also battled Almarode competitively before getting pinned in the third period against the Wildcats, pulled Pacheco back toward the center to earn a takedown with six seconds left in the first period and got the fall with one second showing on the clock.

Josh Scibeli picked up a decision win for the Falcons at 106 pounds before senior Colton Lecraw ended the round with a second-period pin of Jack Felgar.

“I just wanted to show some aggression, go out there and take charge of my match,” said Lecraw, who picked up his 100th career victory in a tournament at King George last Saturday. “I knew I was gonna have a tough second (match) so I went after the first one.”

That second match came against Beckner, the Wildcats’ defending Group 3A 113-pound state champion, in the night’s second bout featuring a pair of returning state tournament qualifiers. Beckner controlled the match from the start, trading takedowns for Lecraw’s escape points in an eventual 23-8 tech fall that ended with 1:18 left in the third period.

“He’s better than me,” Lecraw, a 120-pound state qualifier last season, admitted. “He’s fast. I tried to get some takedowns on him but he’s just quick. He’s a tough competitor. I love going out there and wrestling him. He’s a good friend.”

Central head coach Michael Sanders said Tuesday’s matches went “as expected.”

“It’s a lot of little things that take you from losing close matches to winning,” he said.

“There’s a lot things we need to work on. That’s the biggest takeaway is fortunately we’ve got a couple weeks to get things squared away for districts, conference and all that stuff.”

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