Wildcats, Hawks combine to place 12 wrestlers in tourney

SALEM – Skyline and Warren County weren’t represented in the championship finals of the Virginia High School League Group 3A state wrestling tournament Saturday afternoon but the two Front Royal schools did bring home some hardware.

The Hawks and the Wildcats combined to place 12 wrestlers in the top six of their respective weight classes, an achievement that earned each an all-state medal. That total included six fourth-place finishers.

Skyline head coach Matt Keel, who took five wrestlers to the Salem Civic Center and saw each one place on the podium, praised his team’s effort.

“I think we beat at least 10 kids that had beat us the last three weeks, three or four weeks,” he said. “I mean just peaking. Guys had their heads screwed on straight. And the other thing to remember is we brought five and four of them had never been here before, and they were still able to place.”

A couple Warren County wrestlers were less enthusiastic about how the Wildcats performed at the three-day state tournament, saying they felt the team may have underachieved after winning the Conference 28 and Region 3A East tournaments and qualifying a school-record 13 grapplers for the 3A competition. But head coach Matt Wadas, whose team finished fifth overall (99.5 points) to match the program’s best state finish set last season, said Warren County’s performance this past weekend was a testament to the depth of the 3A classification and a result of nine Wildcats making their first trip to Salem.

“(Group) 3A is tough and I think it showed that even though we had a great team, we had some individuals that were a little young,” Wadas said. “We were not disappointed. To finish with seven place winners is amazing. But yeah, we were hoping for maybe a higher number, like a third instead of a fourth, but seven place winners – I’m proud of the kids, I’m proud of what they accomplished and I’m proud that we’re bringing back five place winners (next season).”

Sophomores Hunter Jost (113 pounds) and Bobby Hunger (132), junior Nathan Johnson (285) and senior Seth Jacobs (170) led the Wildcats with fourth-place efforts. Skyline seniors Brandon Doffermire (145) and Tyrelle Robinson (152) did the same for the Hawks.

Jost, last year’s 106-pound 3A state runner-up, fell to Abingdon’s Daniel Milstead, 5-2, in the 113-pound third-place match on Saturday.

“I’m actually happier with fourth place than I was with second last year,” Jost said. “I feel like I had to work harder for fourth this year. … I got into a harder weight class, harder kids and I worked harder and got fourth. As a team, I think we could’ve done better.”

Hunger, making his first state tournament appearance, went 3-2 in Salem and ended his trip with a 4-3 loss to Brookville’s Colton Wilherson for third place at 132.

“You make mistakes in matches and you can’t really take them back, and you wish you could,” said Hunger, who added that his bout with Wilherson was a defensive match in which both wrestlers had trouble scoring. “I would’ve been more happy with third but fourth is really good too for my first time at states.”

Doffermire, who placed sixth at the state tournament for the Hawks last season, ended his high school career with a an 11-5 loss to Lakeland’s Ziquan Edwards after winning three straight matches – including his first career win over Warren County’s Connor Jost in the consolation semifinals – to reach the third-place bout.

“It’s amazing, man. I’m so proud of myself. I couldn’t do it without my family and friends,” Doffermire said.

The Skyline senior suffered a left ankle injury in the first period of his match against Edwards, forcing Doffermire to wrestle the rest of bout essentially on one leg with his left knee on the mat to keep pressure off his ankle.

“It’s not my style so I really had to pull some things out of my butt, try some new things,” Doffermire said. “But some of it came close to scoring. I came close to doing some good things.”

Robinson, feeling the effects of a rib injury he suffered in a semifinal loss on Friday, was pinned by Christiansburg’s Nick Giantonio in 40 seconds in the third-place match at 152 to finish fourth in his first state tournament.

“I feel good I guess but I kind of regret semifinals because I could’ve definitely been in the finals,” Robinson said of his 7-3 loss to Abingdon’s Lance Levesque on Friday, during which Robinson said he was penalized three times for stalling. “But I achieved my goal.”

In the 170-pound third-place match, Jacobs was pinned by Christiansburg’s Gage Levine in 1:55 and ended his first state tournament appearance with three wins and two losses.

“It is one of the bigger crowds I wrestled in front of,” Jacobs said. “I just kind of took it as another tournament but as it’s progressing and you’ve gotten to day two, day three, I’ve had more fun being here wrestling with the guys, walking around. I’ve just enjoyed myself the longer I’ve been here.”

Johnson, last year’s heavyweight runner-up in the 3A tournament, was smothered by Forth Defiance’s Tyler Michael in a 10-0 loss for third place at 285 on Saturday.

“It wasn’t what I wanted but I mean I’ll take it,” said Johnson, who often weighs in around 220 pounds for matches. “Since I’m wrestling up by about 80 pounds, one mistake can often lead to the loss of a match. I made a couple mistakes, I guess.”

Freshmen Brandon Ahlemann (106) and Morgan Robinson (120) each capped their first trips to Salem with fifth-place finishes for Skyline. Robinson did so by beating Warren County’s Kevin Cruz, 7-3, in the fifth-place match, his first victory over Wildcat senior in three tries this season.

Warren County’s Connor Jost placed fifth at 145, while D.J. Almarode (220) placed sixth for the Wildcats.

Skyline senior Curt Boswell was sixth in what Keel said was a very tough 126-pound class.

Dylan Becker (106), Isaiah Frame (120), Nic Herring (138), Wyatt Gill (160), Michael White (182) and Jack Kilgallen (195) all competed in the 3A tournament for Warren County but did not place.

Christiansburg (204 points) maintained its dominance in the 3A tournament by winning its 16th straight state title.

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