Wildcats win Bull Run District wrestling title

Zach Beckner

FRONT ROYAL – A lot happened for Zach Beckner during Saturday’s Bull Run District wrestling tournament at Warren County High School.

The Warren County senior won his third straight individual district title, knocking off familiar rival and good friend Bayne Gordon, of Clarke County, in the 126-pound championship. Beckner established himself as the Wildcats’ all-time leader in career wins, and was voted by coaches as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler for the second straight year.

But most importantly for Beckner, he and his Wildcat teammates won the team championship, the program’s first district title since 2005 and the first for Warren County under 10-year coach Matt Wadas.

Warren County, which sent nine wrestlers into the finals on Saturday and came out with three champions, finished with 232.5 points, easily pulling away from reigning Group 2A state champion Clarke County (197.5) and defending two-time district champ Strasburg (175). Central (59) placed seventh.

“We really went out there and put it on them,” said Beckner, who now has 147 career wins. “We have the target on our backs now. Beating Brentsville a couple weeks ago put the targets on our back. I mean we’re ranked in the state now, and we’ve gotta wrestle like it.”

The Wildcats certainly did that on Saturday, as they built a comfortable lead heading into the championship bouts by sending nearly as many wrestlers to the finals as Strasburg and Clarke County combined (10). Strasburg sent five wrestlers to the finals and came away with four champions, the most of any team in the tournament.

Warren County 106-pounder Hunter Jost continued his stellar freshman season and kicked off the Wildcats’ championship round in impressive fashion with a second-period pin (3:04) of Rappahannock County sophomore Hunter Nicodemus.

“I was very happy as a freshman to get it,” Jost said. “Our team, we got it for the first year under Wadas. For me to come in as a freshman and say our first year winning it as a team with Wadas is my first year winning it, I was very happy.”

Beckner, last year’s Group 3A 113-pound state champ, delivered the Wildcats’ second individual title three matches later by beating Gordon, a two-time Group 2A state champ, by tech fall, 20-5. The match opened aggressively, with Gordon coming out on the scoring end of a scramble 35 seconds into the first period. Beckner scored a reversal 20 seconds later to tie the match at 2-2 and dominated from there, scoring five back points in the second period and four takedowns in the third.

“Lately he’s been coming out in the very beginning off the whistle and firing away at me, so I was like OK, I’m gonna do that to him this time,” said Beckner, who was given a plaque by former Warren County all-time wins leader Trey Kirkland immediately following his record-setting victory. “I did it and I was putting a little too much pressure forward and Bayne’s a great wrestler, so he capitalized on it. He caught me on a dump and I got a little ticked off.”

Warren County’s final individual title of the evening came in the very last match, as sophomore Nathan Johnson pinned Madison County’s Eric Cashman in 3:14 for the heavyweight championship.

Leading 5-1 after one period, Johnson began the second period on bottom and quickly scored a reversal and two near-fall points 20 seconds in. Cashman came right back a few seconds later with a reversal of his own and held control for the next 45 seconds until Johnson again reversed, this time directly into a pin.

“I was beating him by about five points and then he tried something very risky, and I just caught him for it,” said Johnson. “I outwitted him, I think.”

The Wildcats got runner-up finishes by Kevin Cruz (113 pounds), Ian Brannock (120), Connor Jost (145), Michael White (160), Seth Jacobs (170) and Jacob Schneider (182).

“We had to see if we can transition from that dual to a tournament team, and we had a lot of (three seeds) that were in the finals,” Wadas said. “When you have that in final you have to post an upset, so I was really proud of that. I know some of the kids are disappointed because they didn’t win their final but they got the points for the team when they needed it.”

Strasburg was responsible for three of Warren County’s losses in the championship rounds, as the Rams went 3-0 against the Wildcats in the finals.

Rams junior Kyle Sisk became Strasburg’s first individual champion on Saturday with an 11-4 decision over Cruz in the 113-pound championship, as Sisk remained unbeaten in a handful of career meetings with the Warren County junior, he said. It was Sisk’s second straight Bull Run District title.

“I had better pressure on top,” Sisk said. “I worked better in neutral off my knee, taking shots, driving through.”

Rams sophomore Brandon Swink immediately followed in the 120-pound match with a 10-0 major decision over Brannock, and Strasburg junior Dylan Campbell topped Clarke County senior Jaxon Ottobre by 6-1 decision for the 138-pound championship.

Strasburg junior Ethan Duckworth made it 3-0 against Warren County in the finals when he picked up a major decision, 15-4, over Michael White for the 160-pound championship. Duckworth, who had never wrestled White, blew the match open with an 8-point second period that included two reversals and three back points.

It was Duckworth’s first championship in any high school wrestling tournament.

“He was definitely a lot stronger that I thought he was gonna be, being 160,” Duckworth said. “I’ve never really watched him, so I didn’t really know a whole lot about it. It was not really guess and go but just kind of had to really feel him out and work my stuff, not let him control it.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, especially your first time being at the top,” he added.

Rams junior Josh Pritchett earned a runner-up finish with a 5-1 loss to Rappahannock County’s David Smoot in the 220-pound championship.

Central senior heavyweight Corwin Gonzalez wrestled back from a first-round loss to Johnson to place third, while Jacob Scibelli (106) and Colton Lecraw (126) both finished fourth for the Falcons.

The Bull Run District tournament served as a final tune-up for teams before the start of conference tournaments next weekend. Warren County will host the Conference 28 tournament this Saturday, while Strasburg and Central will travel to Madison County for the Conference 35 meet.

“We are a goofy team and we goof off a lot, but it’s time now,” Beckner said. “It’s postseason. Conference is here. When I walk into the wrestling room, I don’t wanna see our guys goofing off anymore. They know I’m as big a goofball as them but it’s time. This is what we’ve been working for and this is when we need to get serious.”

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