Rams’ Sisk claims his first state wrestling championship
SALEM – Strasburg junior Kyle Sisk credited his success at this past weekend’s VHSL Group 2A state wrestling tournament to his work in the offseason. But that drive actually formed last winter.
As a sophomore last year, Sisk settled for third place at 106 pounds, a result that jumpstarted his push for a better outcome in 2016. He got it.
Grinding through a season in which he worked to regularly cut weight to wrestle at 113 pounds in order to fill a team need, Sisk left Salem Civic Center on Saturday evening a state champion after pinning Clarke County freshman Dawson Parrott in the championship finals.
“It pushed me a lot because my semis last year; I used that loss to fuel the fire for this year,” said Sisk, who finished his junior season with a record of 43-3. “I had to make the sacrifices. Dropping to 13, it was hard. It was brutal and I did it. I had to make the sacrifices, I had to do what the team needed and I did that, and I got a state championship.”
Sisk pinned his way into his first state championship finals appearance with a pair of victories in the first day of the tournament Friday, and he continued that trend against Parrott in a rematch of the Region 2A East championship bout.
Focused on being more aware of his openings after a “frustrating” 13-0 major decision win over Parrott in the regional tournament, it didn’t take Sisk long to do so. He scored a takedown 45 seconds into Saturday’s bout and nearly pinned Parrott using an armbar/half nelson combo near the edge of the circle.
Parrott was able to escape Sisk’s initial attempt but Sisk was able to lock in the pin with seven seconds left in the first period using the same armbar/half combo move.
“I call it the Hunter Dean,” Sisk said, referring to his former Strasburg teammate and three-time state champion, “because Hunter would always hit it.”
Sisk’s win over Parrott was his third in as many weeks, but the junior said his success over his Clarke County rival had little effect on his mindset heading into the finals.
“It wasn’t so much confidence as just going out there and acting like it was just another match,” Sisk said. “Just thinking that it was another match is what helps calm the nerves, calm everything. Shut everybody out except opponents and doing that helped me focus on the match.”
Rams junior Dylan Campbell joined Sisk in the championship finals Saturday, although he wasn’t his outcome against Grundy’s Gabe Fiser in the bout for the 138-pound title.
In a match that featured 14 restarts, Campbell rallied from a 2-1 deficit with a penalty point for locked hands and an escape to take a 3-2 lead into the third period. Fiser tied the match with an escape with 1:25 left and, after four restarts over the next minute, took the lead for good with a takedown with 15 seconds left. Fiser would hold on for the 5-3 win, handing Campbell his second straight state runner-up finish.
“Once he got that takedown with 15 seconds left … I tried everything I could after that to at least get out and try to come back but just couldn’t do it, couldn’t pull it off. He wrestled a really good match,” Campbell said.
“I thought I wrestled strong but the kid was a great wrestler. He was good, good at neutral, he was good everywhere actually. He was just in really good position. I tried to get him out of position but I just couldn’t.”
Strasburg junior Ethan Duckworth (160 pounds) bounced back from a semifinal loss to eventual state champ Cole Stoots of Lebanon to place third with a 4-2 victory over Graham’s Tristen Evans.
“It was great being able to come back and get third. I mean, everyone wants to get first but sometimes taking third’s harder than getting first because you have to wrestle back,” said Duckworth, who also beat Evans by pin in his first match of the tournament on Friday.
Strasburg’s Brandon Swink (120), Austin Cooper (126) – last season’s 113-pound state champ – and Josh Pritchett (220) each finished fourth in the tournament, while senior Ben Rodriguez lost both of his day one matches and was eliminated.
The Rams (89 points) placed third overall for the second straight year behind runaway winner Grundy (229.5) – which won its 18th state championship – and Clarke County (106).
In the Group 1A tournament, Stonewall Jackson senior Brandon Garcia placed third at 132 pounds after beating Chilhowie’s Conner Widener 6-2, his second win over Widener in as many days.
Garcia, a midseason transfer from Turner Ashby High School making his fourth state tournament appearance, was knocked out of contention for his first state title with a 5-3 semifinal loss to Rural Retreat’s Jacob Wynn, who would go on to win his third state championship Saturday evening.
“Almost beat the two-timer, lost by a couple points but that’s the best match I’ve had in a long time,” Garcia said of his bout with Wynn.
“I got a takedown early, kept wrestling. (Wynn) got a reversal, a takedown on me and I just couldn’t come through with it. He stalled a lot and I finally got a point with a couple seconds left but it just wasn’t enough.”
Stonewall Jackson sophomore Dakota Bush claimed the final podium spot in the 285-pound class with his sixth-place finish.
Central sent two wrestlers to the 2A competition, but both Jacob Scibelli (106) and Corwin Gonzalez (285) went two and out on Friday and were eliminated from the tournament.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org