Stonewall’s Bush, Claude repeat as regional wrestling champions
STAUNTON – Stonewall Jackson High School’s Dakota Bush and Udreka Claude each laid claim to their first regional wrestling titles a season ago. Both returned to the top of the podium on Saturday at the Region 1A/1B tournament at Riverheads High School.
Claude, a junior, pinned his way to a trio of victories over the two-day tournament to win the 170-pound championship, while Dakota Bush picked up two pins and a decision on his way to his second heavyweight regional title.
In all, Stonewall placed five wrestlers in the top six spots of their respective weight classes to qualify for this weekend’s Virginia High School League Class 1 state tournament in Salem. Joining Bush and Claude as state qualifiers were 106-pound regional runner-up Lance Dorman, a freshman, senior 160-pounder Caleb Fauver and sophomore 126-pounder Damian Tapia.
Bush, a senior, qualified for his fourth state tournament with his performance in the regional competition. He made quick work of his two opponents on Friday to reach the finals and outlasted Cumberland junior Kaijhaun Trent for a 9-5 decision for the 285-pound title on Saturday afternoon.
“It feels amazing. I love being on top of the podium as much as I can,” said Bush, who won a Shenandoah District championship a week prior to Saturday’s regional title. “It was a tough last match. My first two matches, I pinned them in the first period. It felt good to work hard in the last match, get a good wrestling match in.”
Bush, who said Trent knows how to use his weight to avoid takedowns, tried twice to lift the Cumberland junior in a bear hug early in the first period before scoring a takedown 38 seconds in the match. Trent reversed Bush seconds later and put the senior on his back, nearly securing a pin before Bush broke free for an escape point to cut Trent’s lead to 4-3.
“Working hard, don’t give up on myself,” Bush said of the key to surviving Trent’s near-fall. “Keep trying to work, don’t get pinned and that’s what I did. I rolled back over and got back up and got a point.”
Bush added a takedown with 35 seconds left in the first period to take a 5-4 lead and sealed the victory when he sandwiched a Trent escape between a reversal and a takedown in the third period.
A handful of matches prior to Bush’s victory, Claude earned gold at 170 pounds when he pinned Franklin High sophomore Kemond Roger in 2:28. Roger came out aggressively in the opening moments of the bout, but it was Claude who built up a 14-3 lead before picking up his third fall of the tournament early in the second period.
“The key was pick up the pace with him, try to keep up. Then try to slow him down, go past him,” said Claude, who was nearly caught in a Roger takedown attempt but rolled out of it to put the sophomore on his back to kick off a flurry of 12 points scored between the two grapplers in the first period.
“I felt once I kept top control, kept the pressure, kept attacking, it was mine.”
Claude, leading 9-3, chose bottom to start the second period and immediately scored a reversal to start a 5-point move that gave him an 11-point advantage. He got the pin 13 seconds later.
“I’m excited to back (to the state tournament) and actually try to place this time,” said Claude, who went two-and-out at last year’s Group 1A tournament. “Like coach says, keep working at practice and I could be at the top of the podium.”
Dorman, who fell to Camden Cook-Cash in the Shenandoah District tournament finals a week ago, got another shot at the Riverheads freshman in Saturday’s regional 106-pound championship but suffered the same fate.
Dorman, who had beaten Cook-Cash earlier in the season, scored the initial points of the regional title bout with a takedown in the first 20 seconds but gave up the lead on a reversal and two back points as time expired in the frame. Cook-Cash chose bottom to start the second, scored a reversal after an early scramble and put Dorman on his back for the pin in 2:49.
“I almost pinned him right there for one second. My hips got back, his shoulder popped out and then he just high-hipped over,” said Dorman, who had beaten the Riverheads freshman by decision during the regular season. “But I wrestled him a lot better than I did last week. I’m happy with that. We’ll be on the opposite side of the bracket at states, so hopefully I’ll get another shot.”
Fauver earned his second trip to the state tournament in Salem with a third-place finish in the 160-pound class. He rebounded from a semifinal loss by pin to Franklin High senior and eventual region runner-up Deontay Watson on Friday to pin Riverheads’ Jakob Pickens in the consolation finals on Saturday afternoon.
Tapia placed fourth at 126 pounds to qualify for his first state tournament. Tapia lost his first match of the tournament to Mathews senior Caleb Sadler (the region runner-up), won his next two bouts by major decision and pin then fell to Northampton freshman Brandon Odom by 15-7 major decision in the third-place match.
Riverheads (228.5 points) claimed the team trophy and Northampton (194) was the runner-up. Stonewall (105) was seventh out of 14 teams.