Skyline’s Davis comes up just short of wrestling state title

Warren County finishes as Class 3 state runner-up for first time in school history

Skyline's Tyler Davis fights for control of Christiansburg's Brandon Crowder during the 106-pound championship bout at the VHSL Class 3 state wrestling tournament on Saturday at Churchland High School in Portsmouth. Davis, the first Skyline wrestler to reach the state finals, lost the match 8-2. Brad Fauber/Daily

PORTSMOUTH – Skyline High School’s Tyler Davis put together one of the most accomplished freshman seasons in the 10-year history of the school’s wrestling program during the 2017-18 season. He very nearly became the Hawks’ first-ever freshman state champ on Saturday afternoon.

Davis, who earned championship titles in the Class 3 Northwestern District and Region 3B tournaments over the last two weeks, came a win short of completing the postseason trifecta at this past weekend’s Virginia High School League Class 3 State Championships at Churchland High School. His stellar freshman season came to an end with an 8-2 loss to Christiansburg sophomore Brandon Crowder in the 106-pound title bout.

Davis was the first Hawk to reach the state championship finals since 2015 and was the first Skyline wrestler to do so as a freshman.

“It was a big moment,” Davis said shortly after the loss, just his eighth in 56 matches this season. “I was real nervous. It was probably my most exciting match my whole career. Three weeks ago I wouldn’t have thought I was gonna be in the state finals as a freshman, but working hard in the room with (Skyline 113-pounder Brandon Ahlemann and 126-pounder Morgan Robinson), it pays off.”

Davis’ game plan against Crowder, the 2017 state runner-up, was to go on the offensive early and aggressively, and Hawks head coach Matt Keel said they felt going into the bout that if Davis could score two takedowns in the first period, he’d be in a “really good spot.” Ten seconds into the bout, Davis scored one of those takedowns on a move that briefly put the Christiansburg sophomore on his back. Davis, who had 36 pins this season, said afterward that move was “so close” to ending the match.

Skyline wrestling coach Matt Keel hands freshman Tyler Davis his warmup shirt following Davis' loss to Christiansburg's Brandon Crowder in the 106-pound title bout at the VHSL Class 3 state tournament in February. Keel has stepped down after 11 seasons with the Hawks to serve as the new head coach at Chantilly. Brad Fauber/Daily

“(Friday) I thought I was gonna get creamed in finals against him,” said Davis, who picked up three wins on Friday to reach Saturday’s finals. “I thought I had no chance, and I took him down. That’s probably the best thing I’ve done all season.”

Crowder escaped from Davis’ grip not long after the latter’s takedown early in the first period and scored his own takedown to take a 1-point lead. Crowder pushed the lead to 6-2 with another escape and a takedown in the second period and added a final takedown with 1:30 left in the third after stuffing Davis’ shot at his legs off the whistle and tying up with the Skyline freshman.

“He was real long, so I needed to tie up with him and try and work my short offense,” Davis said. “But he didn’t want to tie up. He stayed where he was good and I tried to stay where I was good, it just didn’t work out.”

Warren County failed to put a wrestler into the championship finals for the second straight year but placed second as a team, the best state tournament finish in program history. The Wildcats, who sent 12 wrestlers to the state tournament, accumulated 137 points to narrowly edge out third-place Cave Spring (135.5). Christiansburg (258) rolled to its 17th straight state championship.

Led by third-place finishers Dylan Becker (120 pounds), Hunter Jost (132) and Nathan Johnson (220), Warren County ended Saturday with eight all-state wrestlers, also one of the highest single-season totals in school history, head coach Matt Wadas said.

Warren County's Hunter Jost, left, grapples with York's Luke Grubbs during Saturday's 132-pound consolation finals at the VHSL Class 3 state wrestling tournament on Saturday at Churchland High School in Portsmouth. Jost won the match, 1-0, to finish in third place overall. Brad Fauber/Daily

“This is the best we’ve ever wrestled that I’ve been at the state tournament. The kids came, no one had the nerves. We went out and we performed pretty much exactly like I wanted,” said Wadas, who saw the Wildcats go 0-5 in Friday night’s semifinal round. “We had a couple losses – like there are with any tournament – that I think we could’ve won, but the kids performed spectacularly. I did not have the expectations of placing eight wrestlers.”

Becker, one of the Wildcats to fall in the semifinal round, avenged his loss to Booker T. Washington’s David Howard by pinning the junior in 4:26 in Saturday morning’s consolation finals. The victory capped a run of four straight wins for the Wildcat sophomore to close out his second state tournament appearance.

“In the semifinals he was doing a lot of stalling and I couldn’t figure out to get around him and take a shot,” Becker said of Howard. “I kind of reviewed it myself and tried to think of a different way I could approach it, so I took a mental note how I could take him down and I got him down.”

Jost, who placed inside the top four for the third straight season, rebounded from his 1-0 loss to Staunton River’s Nathan Kearns – who went on to place second – in the tournament’s opening round to rattle off five straight wins. Jost seized third place at 132 with his 1-0 win over York’s Luke Grubbs in Saturday’s consolation finals after earning the bout’s only point with an escape in the second period.

“When I went into the (consolation) finals I knew this kid was good. He actually was predicted to beat me and I was like ‘go out and have fun,'” Jost said. ” … The third period it was 1-0 and I was like ‘This is it, I have a shot,’ and I rode him out. The best feeling in the world is winning, so coming all the way back from third, I feel like I’m more proud of that than if I would’ve gotten second.”

Warren County's Wyatt Gill extends a hand toward Abingdon's William Seymour during the 182-pound consolation finals match at the VHSL Class 3 state wrestling tournament on Saturday. Gill lost the match, 3-2. Brad Fauber/Daily

Johnson came within a victory of making his second career state championship finals match before getting pinned by New Kent’s Trent Ragland in the semifinals, but he recovered Saturday morning with a pair of victories. Johnson pinned Petersburg’s Kayreign Lundy in just 21 seconds in the third-place bout, his fourth fall of the tournament.

“I think I wrestled really well,” Johnson said. “This is definitely the toughest state bracket I’ve been in, in the last three years. I think I did really well for that. I got a lot of first-period pins, a lot of just pins in general here. I’m glad for that.”

In addition to Davis, Skyline had three other state medal winners in sophomores Brandon Ahlemann (third at 113 pounds) and Morgan Robinson (fifth at 126) and junior Talon Keel (sixth at 145). Ahlemann, who, like Robinson, is now a two-time state place-winner, pinned Cave Spring’s Johnny Baier in 1:53 in the consolation finals.

“I dropped one I could’ve won,” said Ahlemann, who fell to York’s Bradyn Waddell, the eventual runner-up, in the quarterfinals before winning four straight matches, “and it kind of just gave me fire to go out there and just beat everybody on my way through. I kind of didn’t think it was possible for me to go all the way and get third but, I mean, I took it one match at a time. I think that’s what happened with my first match … I was kind of looking ahead toward the semis and how I was gonna game plan for him and kind of overlooked the kid.”

Warren County seniors Wyatt Gill (182) and D.J. Almarode (195) each finished in fourth place, while senior Connor Jost (145), junior Bobby Hunger (138) and sophomore Isaiah Frame (152) each placed fifth.