Gill upsets defending state champ, Wildcats win home wrestling tournament

Wyatt Gill

FRONT ROYAL – At the Appalachian Duals at Skyline High School on Dec. 22, Warren County senior Wyatt Gill fell in lopsided fashion, 17-1, to Lake Braddock’s Tyler Matheny. Given a rematch on the Wildcats’ home mat on Saturday evening, Gill wasn’t concerned about suffering a similar fate against the defending VHSL Class 6 182-pound state champ – he was simply eager for redemption.

Gill got the payback he wanted in the 182-pound championship match of the Warren County Invitational, as he caught Matheny with a takedown early in the bout and pinned the Lake Braddock senior in the first period.

“Losing doesn’t really stop me,” said Gill, who ran his season record to 20-3 and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler after pinning his way to a trio of wins. “It actually makes me work harder. I always go into my matches telling myself, reminding myself, that I’m just gonna wrestle 100 percent my hardest and give all my faith to God.”

Gill wasn’t the only Wildcat to shine on Saturday – Warren County sent eight wrestlers into the championship finals and ended the night with six individual champs – but his victory was the most resounding for the Wildcats, who won their home tournament with 250 total points and easily outpaced runner-up Colgan (204).

Gill fell in a 2-0 hole just 10 seconds into the 182-pound title match when Matheny scored a quick takedown but the trajectory of the match changed quickly when Gill escaped with 1:25 left in the first period. Just seconds later, Gill threw Matheny onto his back and secured the pin only 45 seconds into the bout.

“I knew he didn’t wanna tie up with me, so I did my best to tie up with him. I knew he turned a lot of single legs, so I was kind of baiting that,” said Gill, who qualified for the Class 3 state tournament for the first time in his high school career last season but did not place.

“He ended up letting loose a little bit, so I snapped and then I decided to go for a lat drop and it ended up working.”

Redemption was the theme for more than one Wildcat in the championship finals on Saturday – sophomore 120-pounder Dylan Becker avenged a loss to Kettle Run junior Zane O’Connor that he suffered a year ago, and Isaiah Frame got payback on Riverheads senior Noah Johnson, who beat Warren County’s sophomore 152-pounder in a tournament at Turner Ashby earlier this season.

Becker was the first Wildcat to top the podium on Saturday night after beating O’Connor, 5-0, in a finals match between two evenly matched wrestlers. A long scramble between the two in the first period ended without a point, and the match remained scoreless entering the third period before Becker took a late lead. He wiggled out for an escape with 45 seconds remaining and tacked on three back points for good measure.

“Last year during this same tournament I had him in the finals for 106 and he beat me in that one 5-4, so coming back this year and beating him (5-0) really made a difference,” said Becker, who is 22-1 this fall. “I’ve gotten a lot better over the summer, been training a ton. I just feel like my technique improved greatly after gaining so much stuff. I was stressed a bit going into that match but I got it all out by the end of it.”

Frame, who said he weighed in at 142 pounds before Saturday’s tournament and has regularly been giving up at least 10 pounds in his matches in the 152-pound class this season, held a 3-2 lead over Johnson in their title bout after one period, rode out the Riverheads senior for the entire second period and scored a reversal early in the third en route to a 5-2 decision.

“I lost to that kid a couple weekends ago up at TA. It was like an 11-9 match. I didn’t wrestle my best but I decided I was gonna get revenge here,” Frame said.

Junior Bobby Hunger (22-1) gave Warren County its second individual champ of the evening when he took down C.D. Hylton’s Jaden Deristel for a 9-2 decision in the 138-pound title match.

Hunger took the lead with a takedown a minute into the championship bout, added 5 more points on a reversal and a near-fall in the second period and gained a 9-0 advantage in the third before giving up a late reversal with six seconds left in the match.

“This is the first time I’ve ever gotten first in this tournament,” Hunger said. “I think I wrestled really good today. Started off the day little slow but in the finals I kind of picked it up and I thought I looked pretty good out there.”

Warren County senior 145-pounder Connor Jost (22-1) followed with a second-period pin in the next championship match. Jost trailed George Mason’s Jack Felgar after giving up a takedown midway through the first period but caught the junior with a takedown in the final 15 seconds of the second period and got the pin with just three seconds left on the clock.

“He was strong. He definitely knew what he was doing. He got that first takedown, it was my mistake,” Jost said. “… But I feel like I was ahead most of the match. Even without the lat drop I feel like I could’ve pulled off the win.”

Senior 220-pounder Nathan Johnson capped Warren County’s night in the finals by slowly building his way to an 8-2 victory over Clarke County’s Pete McLean.

Wildcats junior Raphy Souza fell to Riverheads’ Lane Cash, 18-2, in the 126-pound title match, and Wildcats junior Hunter Jost suffered just his second loss of the season in a 7-2 defeat at the hands of C.D. Hylton’s Shawn Nonaka for the 132-pound crown.

Warren County, which won all seven major tournaments it competed in last season, is on pace for another such performance after Saturday’s team title, its fifth championship in five tries this winter. Nathan Johnson said he’s hoping this year’s Wildcats can top last season’s accomplishments, which included 13 state qualifiers and a fifth-place team finish at the Class 3 state tournament, both program records.

“Honestly I’m really, really hoping that we bring all 14 of our guys to states, which I think is very possible if we just whip some of these guys into shape,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some solid middle weights, so I’m really glad about that. We’ve got some solid upperweights, some solid lightweights, I mean what else could we need?”