Wildcats’ Beckner to wrestle at Virginia Tech

Zach Beckner

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School senior Zach Beckner hasn’t been one to shy away from a challenge, as he proved during a prolific high school wrestling career. So when it came to choosing his college destination, he looked for a school that would truly test him on and off the mat.

He found that place.

Beckner, the Wildcats’ all-time career wins leader and a two-time Virginia High School League Group 3A state champion, chose Virginia Tech as his college choice and made it official by signing his commitment letter Friday to wrestle for the Hokies. He is the first Warren County wrestler to sign with a Division I school since Eric Hawes (University of Virginia) in 2001.

Beckner joins a Virginia Tech squad, coached by four-time ACC Coach of the Year Kevin Dresser, which placed fourth at the NCAA Championship last month.

“They started out as a program that was about to be dropped because they were just bad, and then they finished fourth in nationals last year. So I mean Coach Dresser’s good,” Beckner said of his decision to join the Hokies. “… I’ll be putting myself in an environment where I know I’ll be pushed every day. I know I’ll get my butt kicked every day.

“I’m putting myself in a good environment where they know what the heck they’re talking about, because I’ve kind of capped at a high school level and I need something more. And I feel like Tech is the right place to do it.”

Beckner closed his high school wrestling career with a 12-3 major decision over Cave Spring’s Sam Ring for the VHSL Group 3A 126-pound state championship in February, his second straight title. The senior, who was 49-2 last season, is also a three-time Bull Run District, Conference 28 and Region 3A East champion.

Beckner, the only Wildcat ever to win two VHSL state titles, has a career record of 159-4 in high school matches and is Warren County’s career leader in takedowns (244) and near-falls (443).

Virginia Tech put together its best season in program history in 2015-16, as the team ranked third in the final National Wrestling Coaches Association poll and finished with six All-Americans, a school and ACC record for a single NCAA Championship.

That success was a big draw for Beckner, who did not receive a scholarship offer from the Hokies.

“You surround yourself with people that are doing the same thing as you, with the same goals as you, it’s gonna make you strive to be just as good,” said Beckner, the state’s top-ranked 126-pounder by the Virginia Wrestling Association. “And I don’t like to lose, I don’t like to take a backseat to anybody, so it’s gonna drive me to do even greater.”

Beckner said he’s taken a handful of visits to the Blacksburg campus, including twice with Team Virginia for camps in preparation for the Cadet/Junior Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, over the past two summers.

A student of the sport who devours film on opposing wrestlers and the best grapplers in the country, Beckner showed Friday that he’s done his research on Dresser as well, as he detailed the coach’s own college wrestling career at the University of Iowa, which culminated in a national championship in 1986.

“He’s very to the point,” Beckner said of Dresser, who has coached at Virginia Tech since 2006. “He’s gonna tell it to you like it is. He’s not gonna sugarcoat anything. If I were to start falling behind or not be putting in the work that I need to be putting in – even if I know about it in the back of my head I want it to be made clear to me that something would need to change, like if academics were falling behind or anything.”

Beckner is leaning toward a degree in the journalism field and said one of his primary concerns was choosing a school with a recognizable name and a good track record in regard to employment of recent graduates.

Beckner, who expects to redshirt at Virginia Tech next school year, said he also received varying levels of interest from North Carolina State – the second-ranked team in the NWCA poll – Old Dominion, George Mason, Gardner-Webb and Division III Ferrum College.

Beckner is the first Division I commit for Warren County head wrestling coach Matt Wadas, who wrapped up his 10th season with the Wildcats this winter.

“I’m proud of him taking that challenge,” Wadas said. “I think he could’ve gone an easier route. Nothing’s guaranteed at Virginia Tech. He could’ve gone places that were guaranteeing him stuff but he wanted to go to the best and challenge himself, and that’s what made him a two-time state champion.”

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