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Borst tackles adversity in title run through Beast of the East

John Borst

STEPHENS CITY – John Borst offered a glimpse into his list of goals for his senior wrestling season at Sherando High School last month and pointed to two high-profile tournaments that dominated his focus – the prestigious Beast of the East and Escape the Rock events. Borst tackled the first of those tournaments in emphatic fashion by claiming the 195-pound championship at the Beast of the East this past weekend, but not before he suffered through some apprehension about his chances of actually getting to compete.

Last Thursday, the day before Borst was scheduled to leave for the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Delaware, the Sherando senior returned home from practice and immediately fell ill. He recalled Tuesday afternoon that he had a temperature of 101 degrees and was “vomiting everywhere.”

Fearing Sherando assistant coach Brian Kibler would pull him from the two-day competition, Borst chose to hide his ailment. Even when he weighed in at 190 pounds – five pounds lighter than usual – after arriving in Delaware last Friday, Borst countered questions about his weight loss by responding that he simply didn’t eat much the day before.

By the time he stepped foot on the mat for his first match of the Beast on Saturday, after a night spent primarily staring at the ceiling of his hotel room, Borst said he was really feeling the effects of the two previous days.

“I was kind of upset because I mean of course God’s gonna throw me through some weird things. Like getting a 101 temperature the day before I leave for the Beast was kind of like, ‘Of course,'” Borst said. “But given the circumstances I had to show up and show out, so it was fun.”

Borst can now look back with a smile on his flawless 5-0 run through the 195-pound field, which ended with his 3-2 decision over No. 4 Jake Woodley of North Allegheny (Pennsylvania) in the championship round. But his first bout of the tournament, an eventual 5-2 decision over Cam King of Elyria (Ohio) in the second round (Borst, the No. 3 seed, had a first-round bye), was anything but enjoyable. All of the stamina he’d built up in the weeks prior to Beast of the East was gone.

“Every single time I wasn’t wrestling I was sleeping, like I’d find a nice little corner, and I slept because I couldn’t stay awake the whole time. I was feeling it. It was bad,” Borst said.

“That first match, (in) two and a half minutes, I was like dead,” he added. It was the worst experience of my life.”

Borst gutted out the rest of the tournament’s first day on Saturday by pinning No. 19 David Maholtz of Eastside (South Carolina) in the first period, his only fall of the weekend. A better night’s sleep on Saturday left Borst feeling healthier on Sunday, and the Sherando senior picked up a 9-3 win over No. 6 Joseph Miller of Salesnianum (Delaware) in the quarterfinals before notching a 9-2 win over No. 10 Tony Wuest of Smyrna (Delaware) to secure a spot in the 195-pound final in what would be his fourth career match against Woodley.

“Every single time Woodley and I see each other, us being offensive wrestlers and we don’t leave bad position, there’s not much room for error for either of us,” Borst said. “That’s what makes it such a good match to watch. It’s kind of boring in a way if you don’t like wrestling because not much is going on.”

Borst said he scored the bout’s first and only takedown in the first period and much of the match was spent with both wrestlers standing as neither could gain much hand control over the other. Borst said he let Woodley off the mat for both of Woodley’s points in the match, which entered the final period tied 2-2 before Woodley let Borst up at the start of the frame to give the Sherando senior the decisive 3-2 lead.

“There was like no momentum in the match, really, because I got the first takedown off a re-shot, so it was kind of like his offensive move turned into my offensive move,” said Borst, who is 22-0 this season. “It went back and forth but I didn’t give up a single takedown the whole weekend and that was gonna be the key in that match, was being frugal with my points and I proved it at the end.”

Borst will return to action Wednesday and Thursday with the rest of his Sherando teammates in the Willie Walters/Jaye Copp Wrestling Tournament. He said he expects to run into Woodley again at the Escape the Rock tournament scheduled for Jan. 14-15 in Holland, Pennsylvania. Borst said he and Woodley have split their previous four matches.

“I guess now Escape the Rock will be like the final test with him before college,” Borst said.

The Beast of the East championship is just the latest in a string of successes for Borst this year, which began with his second straight Virginia High School League Group 4A state title last February. Borst has also won a pair of national titles since then – at the National High School Coaches Association Junior Nationals in April and the Super 32 Challenge in October – and was the runner-up at the Asics/Vaughan Cadet/Junior National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota in July.

Borst also signed his national letter of intent in November to wrestle on a partial scholarship at Virginia Tech next year.

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