Warriors get peek at ‘quality’ district competition in wrestling quad

Sherando's Jackson Bryant gets Liberty's Matt Sloan in pinning position during their match Tuesday night at Handley High School. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – Sherando High School’s wrestling team is plenty familiar with fellow Frederick County/Winchester city schools James Wood, John Handley and Millbrook. On Tuesday night the Warriors got a chance to see how they stack up with the remaining Class 4 teams in the Northwestern District.

Sherando went head-to-head against Fauquier, Kettle Run and Liberty at a six-team district event held at Handley, going 1-2 and gaining some valuable intel ahead of the Northwestern District tournament that awaits at the beginning of next month.

The Warriors sandwiched a 54-27 win over Kettle Run between a pair of 45-30 losses to Liberty and Fauquier on Tuesday night.

“I thought our guys competed about as well as they could’ve competed tonight,” said Warriors head coach Pepper Martin, who had a trio of wrestlers finish the night 3-0 and four more go 2-1, following the match. “Had some quality district competition, gives us a look at, particularly, some of our better wrestlers, gave them an opportunity to be able to see a little bit ahead of time what to expect come district time.”

Three returning starters – juniors Timmy Dieter (132 pounds) and Quinn McPartland (152) and senior Jackson Bryant (138) – led the way for the Warriors with unbeaten efforts on Tuesday night.

Sherando's Quinn McPartland tries to unwrap Liberty's Ricky Ryan on Tuesday night. McPartland won the match. Rich Cooley/Daily

Dieter, last year’s fourth-place finisher at 120 pounds in the VHSL Group 4A state tournament, scored first-period pins against Liberty and Kettle Run before ending the night with a thrilling 6-4 win in sudden-victory overtime against Fauquier’s Kyle Budd.

After falling behind 4-0 to Budd, the state runner-up at 120 pounds last year, Dieter swung momentum in his favor with a rapid-fire sequence at the end of the second period that included an escape and a takedown in the frame’s final five seconds. He tied the match at 4-all with an escape point midway through the third period to force overtime, then nearly got caught by Budd in the extra frame before gaining control of Budd’s back with six seconds left to seize the win.

Bryant opened his night with pins over Liberty’s Matt Sloan and Kettle Run’s A.J. Breeding and picked up a win by injury default over Fauquier’s Ethan Jordon, a 2017 state tournament qualifier. McPartland earned a pair of 1-point wins over Liberty’s Caleb Swinson (7-6) and Fauquier’s David Dewald (9-8), scoring a decisive reversal in the last 10 seconds of the latter match to complete the back-and-forth bout.

Seniors Tucker Anderson (160) and Zack Kales (220), junior Gavin Eanes (120) and freshman Heath Rudolph (two pins at 126 pounds) each went 2-1 for Sherando, which forfeited all bouts at 106 and 195 pounds on Tuesday night.

Sherando is the midst of a “somewhat” rebuilding year, according to Martin, who added that the current campaign began as a season “filled with question marks.”

Sherando's Zack Kates controls Liberty's Austin Davis. Kates won the match with a pin. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Warriors no longer have the services of three-time state champ John Borst, who is now at Virginia Tech, and also lost Jose Guevara, a 2017 state-tournament qualifier, and Anthony Damico, who is tied for 18th on the school’s career wins list, to graduation. Sherando also is without another 2017 state-tournament qualifier in Jacob Stevens, who is a senior this year but is not with the team this winter.

That left Sherando with eight returning starters, led by returning state-tournament qualifiers Dieter and Kales, though few had more than a year of varsity service time when the season began.

“That’s a little misleading because last year we had guys in here that started for the first time in their high school careers as juniors, and they took their lumps,” Martin said of the number of returning contributors from the 2017-18 squad. “We were banking on them, and they improved during the season, but we were banking on them hopefully picking up where they left off last season. Instead, some of them regressed back a little bit, particularly some of our guys we got out essentially three weeks late from football. They haven’t had a lot of practice but they’re starting to show signs now of putting it all together.”

Sherando is 12-8 in dual matches this season (the Warriors were 37-10 last year) and won the 10-team Cavalier Classic at W.T. Woodson on Dec. 16.

Martin said the results from Tuesday’s duals, as well as head-to-head meetings with James Wood, Handley and Millbrook, would help determine seedings for the Northwestern District tournament scheduled for Feb. 3 at Liberty, though some of the weight classes could be in flux as wrestlers make late-season shifts in those classes.

Sherando head coach Pepper Martin, left, and assistant Brian Kibler, right, react during a dual match against Liberty on Jan. 10 in a quad meet at Handley in Winchester. Martin decided to step down as head coach on Friday after 25 years at the helm. Rich Cooley/Daily file

“If all the weight classes hold steady then it gives us a little idea,” Martin said. “We’ve seen some tendencies in some of our opponents. Some of our younger, more inexperienced wrestlers got a taste of what our district’s all about tonight.”