Conference wrestling tournaments cap local sports week

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School’s wrestling team checked the first item off their to-do list Saturday afternoon with a Bull Run District tournament championship. But the Wildcats have their sights set on bigger things, and that quest begins this weekend.

The Wildcats will host the Conference 28 tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday, marking the official start of playoff wrestling a week after getting one final chance at a tune-up in this past weekend’s district tournament. Skyline will join its cross-town rival in the Conference 28 tournament field.

Warren County, a Group 3A school, beat 2A members Clarke County and Strasburg for the Bull Run championship but will see neither of those squads for the rest of the postseason.

“We just have to realize this isn’t the peak of the mountain,” Wildcats head coach Matt Wadas said after Warren County’s district championship win on Saturday. “This was fun and this was nice but we have to try to just keep going. Next week we’ve got Brentsville, and that’s another high-caliber team … even better than Strasburg and Clarke, so we can’t rest on our laurels. We’ve gotta enjoy this tonight and on Monday get back to work.”

Warren County was impressive this past weekend, sending nine wrestlers into the championship round and coming out with three individual champions in freshman Hunter Jost (106 pounds), senior Zach Beckner (126) and sophomore Nathan Johnson (285).

The Wildcats, who lost just one dual match during the regular season, went unscathed in the Conference 28 duals several weeks ago. They are also the reigning conference tournament champs.

“I preach to the kids never let your highs get too high and your lows get too low, so we enjoyed that success but now we’ve moved on,” Wadas said. “I told them, we’re not looking in the back because if we look in the rearview mirror we’re gonna get slammed in the front. So we’re gonna just try to take it step by step and move from there.”

Strasburg and Central will also begin their postseason wrestling with the Conference 35 tournament at Madison County High School at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Rams are coming off a third-place finish in the Bull Run District meet, and they had four individual champions in Kyle Sisk (113), Brandon Swink (120), Dylan Campbell (138) and Ethan Duckworth (160), the most of any other team in the tournament.

Strasburg has won the last two Conference 35 championships but finished 22.5 points behind Clarke County in the district tournament this past weekend.

Before Strasburg and Central travel to the conference tournament, however, they will square off in the Shenandoah County wrestling meet along with Stonewall Jackson, which is hosting the event Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Sherando will travel to James Wood High School for the Conference 21A wrestling tournament, also at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Warriors, the runner-up in last year’s Conference 21 meet, earned longtime head coach Pepper Martin his 500th career victory in the Kettle Run Invitational this past Saturday. Sherando also wrestles at Handley on Tuesday.

Strasburg girls basketball will kick off the week with a Conference 35/Bull Run District clash with visiting Clarke County today, as both teams are jockeying for third place in the conference standings. The Rams also travel to Madison County Tuesday for another conference matchup.

Tuesday will feature a handful of local vs. local action on the hardwood, as Skyline’s girls and boys basketball teams host Sherando for a Northwestern District doubleheader, while Warren County’s girls and boys teams host Central in a Bull Run showdown.

Central and Strasburg will square off in a girls hoops rivalry game on Thursday, while Central, Stonewall Jackson and Strasburg will meet in the annual Shenandoah County swim meet at Signal Knob Recreation Center the same night in a makeup of last week’s postponement due to weather.

Central swimming, led by head coach Steve Shaffer, swept the boys and girls meets in last year’s event.

“The Central boys have held the trophy for more than five years and continue to have the numbers and depth to be the strongest team going into the meet,” Shaffer said recently. “The Strasburg boys have worked hard, may steal a few gold medals and they certainly have improved the quality of swimming in the county. But I don’t believe they can overcome the team depth of the Central boys.

“As it has been all season, the county championship will be decided by the third, fourth and fifth place swimmers,” he added. “I don’t know who will win the meet, but the Central girls are prepared for the challenge.”

On Friday, Stonewall Jackson’s boys travel to Conference 44 rival Riverheads while the General girls host the Gladiators. Friday will also feature the private school rivalry between Randolph-Macon Academy and Massanutten Military Academy in a boys and girls hoops doubleheader at MMA.

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