Generals’ Bush wrestles to runner-up finish in 1A state tournament

Stonewall's Dakota Bush, right, is tangled with Rural Retreat's Ben Sowers in the Group 1A 285 pound state title in Salem on Saturday. Bush fell in the state championship match. Rich Cooley/Daily

SALEM – Stonewall Jackson High School junior Dakota Bush’s official start to the wrestling season didn’t come until the midway point of the campaign in early January, as he worked to cut the weight he’d built up during football season in order to compete in the 285-pound class. On Saturday Bush nearly topped the Virginia High School League Group 1A heavyweight field.

Bush, coming off his first Region 1A East title last week, pinned his way into the state’s 285-pound championship match Saturday afternoon before falling to Rural Retreat’s Ben Sowers, 5-3, to finish as the 1A runner-up.

“Hard work and dedication,” Bush said. “I didn’t have anybody to wrestle with (in practice), and thanks to my (assistant) coach, A.C. Franklin. He helped me a lot. He wrestled with me even though I’m about 100 pounds bigger than him. He just wrestled with me and helped me for regionals and states. I’m just proud, proud of what I’ve done.”

The second-place finish was a notable achievement for Bush, who placed sixth at the state level last season. But the junior couldn’t help but feel some disappointment after being on the wrong end of what he and Generals head coach Jerry Franklin felt were a pair of incorrect officiating calls that ultimately led to Bush’s loss in the title bout.

Bush, who aggressively tried to establish underhooks against Sowers multiple times during the match, was penalized twice for what the referees ruled were elbows to Sowers’ head. Those two calls awarded Sowers three of his 5 points in the bout.

Stonewall's Dakota Bush, bottom, wraps Rural Retreat's Ben Sowers in the Group 1A 285 pound state title in Salem on Saturday. Bush fell in the state championship match. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I was just trying to work,” Bush said. “I mean he was backing up and I just kept on going at him. The ref thought I was hitting with my elbow when I was just pummeling.”

Bush drew the first penalty with 18 seconds left in the first period to fall into a 1-0 hole before an escape pulled him even entering the third frame. Sowers was awarded a go-ahead point when Bush was penalized for locking his hands early in the third period.

The Stonewall junior allowed Sowers up prior to a restart with 55 seconds left so he could chase the tying takedown trailing 3-1, but Bush was penalized again for a blow to Sowers’ head 13 seconds later, a ruling that sent Bush into a 5-1 deficit.

Sowers was penalized twice for stalling over the final 37 seconds but it wasn’t enough to close the gap for Bush, who said it was “extremely” frustrating to give up four of Sowers’ five points on penalties.

“I was just working heavyweight stuff and the refs thought I was being rough with him or something,” Bush said. “I mean, it’s just what heavyweights do and the refs thought it was a 106 (pound) match, getting hit in the face or something.”

Bush, one of four Stonewall wrestlers to make the trip to Salem, led a trio of state placement winners on Saturday.

Generals junior Caleb Fauver placed fifth at 152 pounds, while senior Matt Oczkowski was sixth in the 145-pound class.

Fauver, who went 2-2 in his first state tournament, beat Northampton’s Sean Marsh, 10-7, in the fifth-place match to close out his afternoon.

“It feels really good,” Fauver said. “It’s definitely a different experience. I walked in (Friday) morning and I just looked up and I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people.’ That’s just not the kind of environment I’m used to but the environment didn’t really get to me mentally. I just kept telling myself it’s just another tournament. … It means more than that but that’s what I kept telling myself. I expected to get higher but there’s tough kids at states out of 4,000 kids that wrestle in the state of Virginia.”

Stonewall sophomore Udreka Claude went 0-2 in the tournament and did not place.

Rural Retreat (200.5 points) won the 1A team title, followed by Riverheads (155) and Patrick Henry (83).

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or