Stonewall freshman Dorman making good on lofty expectations on wrestling mat

Stonewall Jackson's Lance Dorman practices his takedown technique on teammate Damian Tapia during a recent practice. Dorman, who wrestles in the 106-pound class, frequently has to wrestle teammates much larger than him, including Tapia who wrestles in the 126-pound class. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – Longtime Stonewall Jackson High School wrestling coach Jerry Franklin was quick to heap praise on Lance Dorman before the latter had even wrestled a varsity match for the Generals ahead of the 2017-18 season. With the regular season now coming to a close and the postseason gearing up, Franklin’s regard for his freshman 106-pounder may be even higher.

“He’s probably, I would say, the best little freshman we’ve had all the way back to my son,” Franklin, whose son, A.C., graduated in 2008, said of Dorman on Thursday afternoon, “because A.C. was a skilled wrestler as a freshman and Lance is coming in there – and A.C. did the same thing when he was a freshman – he’s showing the kids sometimes how to do stuff. He’s helping everybody out in the room. I’m expecting a lot out of him for the next four years.”

So, too, is Dorman himself.

Heading into Saturday’s Shenandoah District tournament at Stonewall Jackson, Dorman is 25-2 this season and leads the Generals in total pins (16) and win percentage (.926). It may be a bit out of the ordinary for a freshman to immediately come in and make a strong case as a team’s top wrestler, but Dorman isn’t all that surprised by his rapid success.

He enjoyed similar triumphs as an eighth grader at the junior varsity level last season, he said, and expected that he would be able to pick up where he left off this winter when he made the jump to the varsity squad.

Lance Dorman runs the hallways during the conditioning phase of a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

That level of confidence is a prerequisite for success on the mat, but it’s a somewhat new addition to Dorman’s wrestling repertoire.

“For a while it was rough,” Dorman, a longtime wrestler, said of developing that self-assuredness. “I’d get, not really scared, but I’d think, ‘Dang, that kid’s big.’ Then last year, the start of my eight-grade year, I wrestled all JV and that’s when I started being more confident. Then I wrestled in the Mason-Dixon Championships and the kid who always beat me, I ended up beating him for third place in overtime. From there on I’ve always been a little more confident.”

That’s why, even at 106 pounds, Dorman will challenge – and often quite successfully – teammates in the practice room who weigh as many as 50 pounds more than he does. Franklin said Dorman’s bouts with 160-pound senior Caleb Fauver aren’t typically competitive – Fauver generally just “toys” with Dorman because he’s so much stronger, Franklin said – though the freshman holds his own against Damian Tapia, Hunter Cowart and Josh Gibson, Stonewall’s starters at 126, 132 and 138 pounds, respectively.

In fact, Dorman is the Generals’ only 106-pounder, meaning he’s regularly practicing against Tapia and Cowart.

“Once I start wrestling like Hunter and Damian, they’re 126 every day. When I get out on the mat, 113 or 106 doesn’t feel very big at all,” Dorman said.

Lance Dorman works out with dumbbells during the conditioning phase of a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I also wrestle a lot with like A.C. (Franklin) and Brandon Garcia, our coaches, and they’re a lot heavier. It does help the confidence.”

When he hits the mat in an official capacity against wrestlers who aren’t his teammates, Dorman uses all of that training against much bigger opposition as fuel for a style in which he is always attacking and always trying to be the aggressor, he said.

“I do like defense but I’m more of an offensive wrestler,” said Dorman, who added that most of his 16 pins this season have come in the first period. “I’m always attacking and I’ll go from one thing and just chain wrestling, going from one move to the next just constantly, keeping the pressure.”

Jerry Franklin said Dorman, who wrestled for Stonewall’s youth program before it fizzled out and also with the Mat Pack Wrestling Club in Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley Elite Wrestling Club in Strasburg, has good technique on the mat, but that the freshman’s “get up and go” is what sets him apart.

“He just seems like he has a nonstop motor. Even in practice, even in our dumbbell workouts, no matter what we do he’s just so intense,” Franklin said. “He just likes to go for it. He don’t wanna slow down. I mean he hates it.”

Last week was tough for Dorman in that regard, as he was sidelined the entire week with the flu and has had to work his way back up to full strength this week in time for Saturday’s district championships. Dorman said he expects to be 100 percent for the tournament, which will serve as a final primer for Stonewall’s wrestlers before they travel to Riverheads for the combined Region 1A/1B tournament on Feb. 9 and 10.

Once the postseason begins in an official capacity with that regional tournament, Dorman said he would take things one match at a time but expects to be on top of the 106-pound podium when the season comes to a close at the VHSL Class 1 state tournament in Salem two weeks from now.

Dorman’s only losses this season have come to Jack Overstreet of Western Albemarle (a Class 3 school) – in Stonewall’s first tournament – and Cy Hwang of Patriot (Class 6) on Jan. 20.

“I have high hopes for him,” Franklin said. “I think he’s got the capability of actually being at the top. I mean he’s got the ability, and as long as he gets the sickness completely out of him, I think he’ll be right there with them.”