Area schools to send 37 wrestlers to state tournament

The Strasburg and Warren County high school wrestling teams each claimed regional championships in their respective classifications last week, and now both have a chance to leave Salem with Virginia High School League state tournament trophies this weekend. But each will have to get past two of the state’s traditional powerhouses to do it.

Strasburg, coming off its first Region 2A East title since 2014, will send eight wrestlers to Salem Civic Center and attempt to knock off 19-time state champion Grundy in the Group 2A tournament. Warren County, meanwhile, won the Region 3A East tournament at New Kent last weekend – the Wildcats’ first regional title since 2003 – and will send a program-best 13 wrestlers to the Group 3A state tournament, which has been dominated by Christiansburg, winner of 15 straight state titles.

The Group 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A state tournaments will once again be held simultaneously in Salem, although 3A and 4A, which each feature 12-man brackets, will begin today and run through Saturday. Groups 1A and 2A, operating with eight-man brackets, will take place Friday and Saturday.

“This is an exciting state tournament for us – with 13 kids we definitely have a great shot at placing high as a team,” Wildcats head coach Matt Wadas wrote in an email earlier this week. “Christiansburg is the favorite and they will be until someone knocks them off. We aren’t focused on them. We are focused on our performance and our wrestling – that’s all we can control.”

Warren County’s 13 state-bound wrestlers are the most of any of the six local public high schools, which will combine to send 37 individuals to Salem, including 13 who are making at least their second appearance. Only two wrestlers, Strasburg’s Austin Cooper and Sherando’s John Borst, have previously won a VHSL state title, and Borst (195 pounds) – the area’s wins and pins leader – is chasing his third straight championship.

Warren County did not have an individual regional champion last weekend but did get runner-up finishes from Hunter Jost (113 pounds), Kevin Cruz (120), Nic Herring (132) and Connor Jost (145). Hunter Jost – last season’s 106-pound state runner-up – Cruz and Connor Jost are each making their second state tournament appearance, as is heavyweight Nathan Johnson, the 285-pound 3A runner up in 2016.

Dylan Becker (106), Isaiah Frame (126), Bobby Hunger (132), Herring, Wyatt Gill (160), Seth Jacobs (170), Michael White (182), Jack Kilgallen (195) and D.J. Almarode (220) are each making their first trip to Salem for the Wildcats.

Strasburg, 2A’s third-place finisher in each of the last two seasons, is taking the most experience to Salem. Five of the Rams’ eight state-bound wrestlers have made at least one state tournament appearance.

Dylan Campbell (145), a four-time state qualifier, is seeking to close his high school career with his first state title after back-to-back runner-up finishes. Cooper (138) – the 2A 113-pound champ in 2015 – is making his third state tournament appearance, as is Swink (120). Ethan Duckworth (195) and Josh Pritchett (285) have now qualified twice. Each of those five grapplers won an individual regional title last weekend.

Joining that experienced core for the Rams are state first-timers Peyton Stickles (113), Javian Moore (160) and Austin Miller (170).

“Grundy, I found out, they’ve got 10 going (to the state tournament), had nine in the (Region 2A West) finals and one for third and fourth,” Rams head coach Mike Wood said following the Region 2A East tournament. “So it looks like it’s gonna be one of those deals where we’re gonna take good guys down but is it gonna be enough?”

Skyline qualified five wrestlers for the 3A state tournament, including 152-pound Region 3A East champ Tyrelle Robinson, who is making his first trip to Salem along with Brandon Ahlemann (106), Morgan Robinson (120) and Curt Boswell (126). Brandon Doffermire (145) returns to the state tournament after qualifying last season.

“I think that everybody that is going down there has the goal to be on the podium,” Hawks head coach Matt Keel said. “I think that the mindset is to be at the top of the podium. They’re wrestling every match to win. A lot of things (are) outside of your control, so these guys are taught to focus on what you have control over and do that. It’s all about working hard.”

Sherando (4A) and Stonewall Jackson (1A) will each send four individuals to their respective state tournaments. Borst, who signed with Virginia Tech in November, is the only Sherando wrestler with prior state experience and will be joined by teammates Timmy Dieter (120), Jacob Stevens (138) and Zack Kales (220).

Stonewall will be represented by two-time Group 1A qualifier Dakota Bush (285) and Udreka Claude (170) – both won their first Region 1A East titles last weekend. Also qualifying for the Generals are Matt Oczkowski (145) and Caleb Fauver (152).

Three Central wrestlers will compete in the 2A tournament, including Jacob Scibelli (113), who is making his second straight appearance after a runner-up finish in the Region 2A East tournament last week. He will be joined by teammates David Spitler (152) and Ezra Smith (285).

The first round of the 3A/4A tournaments begins at 7 p.m. tonight, with the quarterfinals scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday. The quarterfinal rounds of the 1A/2A tournaments start at noon Friday. Matches for third and fifth place will take place for all tournaments at 11 a.m. Saturday, with the championship finals scheduled for 2 p.m.

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