Athlete of the Week: Borst puts stamp on Warrior wrestling career with third state title

John Borst

SALEM – Sherando High School wrestling coach Pepper Martin has had a front-row seat as John Borst pieced together the most decorated career of any Warrior grappler over the last four years. Last weekend, Martin watched as Borst put an emphatic final touch on his final season with the Warriors.

Borst rumbled through the 195-pound field at the Virginia High School League Group 4A state wrestling tournament at the Salem Civic Center, capping the run with his third straight state championship en route to becoming the first Sherando wrestler to accomplish the feat.

“For me as a longtime coach at Sherando, and for the other assistant coaches, he’s the type of wrestler that comes around once in a lifetime,” Martin said shortly after the tournament came to an end on Saturday. “To see him grow and develop into the elite wrestler he is says a lot about his drive to be the best. And this was an ongoing process with him. He dedicated himself to the sport from his freshman year on, wrestling in the offseason, wrestling in the toughest tournaments that he could find to get good competition and to develop himself.”

Sharpened by all of that work outside of the three-month high school season, Borst has ascended to a top-five national ranking in his weight class. His status as one of the premier 195-pound high school wrestlers in the country – one who won two national titles prior to the start of his senior season and earned a Beast of the East championship in December – left little doubt about the outcome of Borst’s final trip to Salem. But his performance was no less impressive.

Borst, the Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for Feb. 13-19, pinned his way through his three matches in the state tournament, just as he had in the Region 4A West tournament the week before and the Conference 21 West championships prior to that. And like those previous tournaments, each of Borst’s pins in Salem came in the first period.

“Leading up to the postseason, he was working a lot on his feet, various setups and takedowns in the matches he wrestled leading up to the postseason tournaments,” Martin said. “He essentially would work on his feet, get a bunch of takedowns and maybe in the second or third period go ahead and try to pin his opponents. Leading into the postseason he set a goal that he wanted to pin out, from conference to region to the state tournament, and he accomplished that. And of course his ultimate goal of becoming a three-time state champion. … That says a lot about the type of young man he is and he’s gonna be missed, that’s for sure.”

Borst’s rout of the 195-pound 4A field began with a pin against Fauquier’s Jackson McEachin, a bout that lasted just 50 seconds. Borst needed nearly a minute longer to do the same to Liberty (Bealeton) senior Cordell Smith in the semifinal, which ended with a Borst pin in 1:42.

In the 195-pound championship final on Saturday afternoon, Borst got caught with his back to King’s Fork junior Dennis Whitehead early in the match after misjudging Whitehead’s movement on a takedown attempt. Borst found himself briefly in Whitehead’s grip before ripping himself free.

“He was a lot stronger than I was,” Borst said. “We shook hands and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s not that strong.’ And then he hit me and I was like, ‘Oh.’ He’s pretty built. I went for a simple slide-by and I thought his hips were gonna go one way and then I over-capitalized and he went the other way. … But I knew I wasn’t gonna get taken down. I was safe. So it was fun. Just did it with a smile on my face.”

Borst scored his own takedown 34 seconds into the bout and, after a Whitehead escape 20 seconds later, followed that with another with 45 seconds left in the first period that led to three back points. Borst earned the pin at the 1:50 mark to stake his spot atop the state podium for the third straight year.

“I was very excited about that,” Borst said of pulling off the streak of first-period pins through the postseason. “When I took him down I was like all right, let’s see what I can do here but there wasn’t a question in my mind that I was gonna end up with bonus points of some sort. So that was definitely the key.”

As enjoyable as Borst’s run to his third state championship was for the Sherando senior, it may have meant just as much to his head coach.

“As a coach, to be able to ride his coattails to three state championships, it’s an indescribable feeling,” Martin said.

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