Nine local wrestlers advance to region semis
FRONT ROYAL – Warren County junior Jack Kilgallen continues to surprise himself on the wrestling mat this postseason.
Kilgallen, a late call-up from the Wildcats’ JV squad after starting 220-pounder D.J. Almarode went down with a season-ending ankle injury three weeks ago, made his varsity playoff debut in last week’s Conference 28 tournament and reached the championship final.
Riding that momentum, Kilgallen was back at it again in the first day of the Region 3A East tournament at Skyline High School on Friday, as he picked up a pair of victories to advance to Saturday’s semifinal round.
“I didn’t know any of this would happen,” Kilgallen said shortly after his second victory of the day in the 220-pound class.
“I’m scared and happy at the same time. It’s kind of like a bittersweet thing. I mean I was scared for what’s to come but it’s awesome. I’m happy for this opportunity.”
Kilgallen was one of six Warren County wrestlers to advance to Saturday’s semifinal round and remain in contention for regional championships. Kevin Cruz (113 pounds), Zach Beckner (126), Connor Jost (145), Jacob Schneider (182) and Zach Smith (195) also went 2-0 for the Wildcats on Friday.
Warren County finished day one in fourth place in the team standings with 81 points, trailing New Kent (94.5), Poquoson (84) and Brentsville (81.5).
Kilgallen’s two victories came via a pin in the final second of his opening bout with New Kent’s Richard Flournoy and a 5-2 decision over Hopewell senior Latrell Thomas – the Conference 26 champ – in the 220-pound quarterfinal.
“(I just take it) one match at a time,” Kilgallen said. “I’ve been having my friends help me out with everything, saying ‘this kid does this.’ OK, I’ve gotta watch out for that.”
Skyline will have three wrestlers in the semifinals, as Curt Boswell (120), Brandon Doffermire (138) and Joey Norman (182) each won both of their day-one bouts Friday.
Norman, who lost the Conference 28 final to Schneider by injury default last week after suffering a shoulder injury, bounced back Friday with a first-period pin of Warhill’s Josh Farley and a 10-6 decision over Conference 26 champ Lydell Poag of Armstrong.
“I’ve just been telling myself the whole season just take it one match at a time and just don’t look back,” said Norman, who acknowledged that he still feels some pain in his left shoulder when he’s on the mat.
Boswell, the Conference 28 runner-up, advanced to the regional semis with a bye and an 8-2 win over Phoebus’ Michael Todd III. Doffermire beat York’s Mitchell Hamilton, 9-3, before topping New Kent’s Bryce Henley 8-6 in overtime.
Hawks coach Matt Keel said he was “really, really pleased” with Doffermire’s day-one performance.
“This is the first time that he’s ever had any sort of expectations. Last year he was happy to be on varsity,” Keel said. “He’s where he’s able to get through those nerves. Like the first match … I’m trying to encourage him and he’s like, ‘I’m nervous!’ like right in the middle of the match. We got him through that, he got in that next match and that kid from New Kent is tough. He really showed a lot of grit.
“Curt (Boswell) wrestled a kid – I don’t think that kid thought he was gonna lose, but I knew we were better than that,” Keel continued. “Curt just kept grinding and doing his thing, and one thing some of these kids are starting to find out is if they wrestle six minutes, good decision-making, doing what they’re supposed to do, they have a lot better outcome.”
Cruz, a junior, became the first Warren County wrestler to solidify a spot in the semifinals Friday when he pinned Phoebus’ Nashae Johnson in the second period of the 113-pound quarterfinal.
“I really think that I didn’t play the neutral well,” said Cruz, who also had a first-round bye. “But I feel like next time when I face him – I might face him again in the finals for third and fourth – I feel like it’ll go a lot differently.”
Wildcats senior Zach Smith advanced to the 195-pound semis with a first-round pin in 19 seconds against Jacob Missak of Colonial Heights and a 5-2 decision over Spotsylvania’s Jacob Terry, the Conference 26 champ.
“He was the kid that knocked me out of regions last year, so it was a pretty good win,” Smith said of Terry.
Beckner, last year’s Group 3A 113-pound state champ, continued his march toward his third regional crown with a win by forfeit and a first-period pin of Poquoson’s Cole Parks at 126 pounds.
Jost earned a major decision (11-2) over Tabb’s Mason Andrews and a third-period pin of Hopewell’s Ethan Hill to reach the 145-pound semifinals, while Schneider, coming off his first conference title, went unbeaten at 182 pounds with a bye and a second-period pin of Tabb’s James Roberts.
Warren County sophomore heavyweight Nathan Johnson, the Conference 28 champ, was beaten 7-4 in the quarterfinal round by Tabb’s Zach Schiele.
“We’re really not focused on the team race at this point, I’ll be honest with you,” Wildcats coach Matt Wadas said. “We’re focusing on getting as many kids to states as we can. We had a couple kids that – I wouldn’t call it an upset, but we were even and we lost. We had a couple kids that were even and won, so what we have to understand is no one’s gonna give us an inch tomorrow.”
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the Group 3A state tournament next weekend in Salem. All 14 of Warren County’s wrestlers remained in contention for a state qualifying spot heading into Saturday, while 10 of Skyline’s 11 wrestlers remained in the regional tournament after day one.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org