FRONT ROYAL — What’s sure to be an interesting road back to the Virginia High School League state wrestling tournament began in earnest for Skyline’s wrestling team on Wednesday, and a Hawks team with aspirations of yet again contending for a Class 3 state title began with a good first step.
In its first action of the condensed 2020-21 season, Skyline knocked off Strasburg, last year’s Class 2 state runner-up, Class 6 Riverbend and Benedictine College Preparatory, the defending Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state champ, in impressive fashion at home to begin the season 3-0.
The Hawks easily trounced Strasburg and Riverbend by scores of 53-20 and 54-28 to set up a battle of unbeatens in the final round of the afternoon between two of the top high school teams in the state. Skyline edged Benedictine 37-34, knocking off a Cadets squad that has won five of the last seven VISAA state titles.
“That was a big win for us,” Hawks coach Kyle Symons said. “It was nice to be able to knock them off but we’ve got bigger goals, what we need to accomplish here at the end of the year. We’re trying to win a team state title and we know we’ve got to beat New Kent to do that, but today was good. We still have improvements that we need to make but I think the guys proved today that we’re here and we’re ready for good competition, we’re ready to beat good teams.”
After facing light resistance in its first two duals, Skyline found itself in a back-and-forth bout with Benedictine early as Hawks sophomore Dustin Gue (pin at 182 pounds) and junior Nathan Haskins (major decision at 195) helped counter two Cadet pins through the first four matches.
Junior Chris Moin edged Benedictine’s Bryson Smith for a 3-2 win at heavyweight in what was the most competitive match of the dual to give a 13-12 lead for Skyline, and after the Cadets’ Brycen Arbogast’s major at 113, the Hawks’ experienced lightweights took control.
Sophomores Phoenix Alyea (120) and Hunter Salomon (126) and seniors Tyler Davis (138) and Heath Rudolph (145) each pinned their opponents in the first period. Rudolph, a newly arrived transfer from Sherando, secured Skyline’s victory with his pin that gave the Hawks a 15-point lead with two bouts left, a deficit that two Benedictine pins to end the day couldn’t overcome.
In all, seven Hawks went 3-0 in the quad, a list that included Alyea (two pins), Salomon (two pins), Davis (two pins), Rudolph, Gue (two pins) Haskins and Moin, who wrestled the first two duals at 220.
“The first seven in our lineup are really solid and then after that we’ve got a couple guys that we need to be sure to bring along, and then we get pretty good again up top,” said Symons, whose team was without sophomore 106-pounder Ethan Asher, a Strasburg transfer and defending Class 2 state champ, on Wednesday. “But a lot of it is more so is just us trying to shore up the middle because we’re gonna need 14 good weights to win a state title. Right now I think we’ve got about 10 or 11 and we’ve got a few yet that are close but we’ve got to continue to improve and continue to do things we’re capable of.”
Strasburg, a team that lost several key pieces from last year’s team that placed second in the state in Class 2, struggled against the high-caliber competition at Skyline in its first action of the season. After falling to the Hawks, the Rams fell to Benedictine 63-17 and dropped a close match with Riverbend (39-33) to end their afternoon.
Rams coach Daniel Reynolds said his team was aware of the challenge that awaited it on Wednesday and added that the competition Strasburg saw at Skyline will likely be some of the best it sees all season.
“We knew that our hands were gonna be full but I just told the guys (to) go out there, give me max effort and that’s all I’m asking for,” Reynolds said. “Win or lose, go out there, get the experience, get the mat time and just put forth 100%.”
The only Ram to go unscathed on Wednesday was freshman 106-pounder Jared Miller, who was the beneficiary of three forfeit victories. Senior Jaylon Burks (138) and freshman David Burks (145) both went 2-1 for Strasburg.
Jaylon Burks’ lone loss came at the hands of Davis, who made quick work of the Ram senior with a first-period pin in a battle of 2020 state silver medalists. Rudolph, another grappler with a long list of postseason success, handed David Burks’ his only loss of the afternoon.
“We had some success today and then I’d say there were a couple matches where I think we lost and could’ve won,” Reynolds said. “We had our mistakes. And it wasn’t just the young guys either. Our old guys made some mistakes too. They need to lead by example as upperclassmen and show you can make mistakes, but you can bounce back from them, too. You need to go back to the drawing board and keep working hard so you can learn from them.”
Skyline 53, Strasburg 20
Individual results: 152: Reynolds (ST) TF Carter 19-0; 160: Sotelo (SK) pin Stern 3:27; 170: Shaw (ST) pin Pearson 3:49; 182: Gue (SK) forfeit; 195: Haskins (SK) forfeit; 220: Moin (SK) maj. Fake, 14-3; 285: Mohr (SK) forfeit; 106: Miller (ST) forfeit; 113: J. Domino (SK) dec. H. Burks 2-0; 120: Alyea (SK) pin Clinedinst 0:28; 126: Salomon (SK) forfeit; 132: A. Burks (ST) dec. Bosley 7-3; 138: Davis (SK) pin J. Burks 0:44; 145: Rudolph (SK) maj. D. Burks 13-3.
Skyline 54, Riverbend 18
Individual results: 160: Sotelo (SK) forfeit; 170: Soaper (RI) pin 0:43; 182: Gue (SK) pin Grasso 1:58; 195: Haskins (SK) dec. Pressinger 7-2; 220: Moin (SK) pin Etcho 2:27; 285: Mohr (SK) forfeit; 106: double forfeit; 113: J. Domino (SK) TF Gipson 18-0; 120: Alyea (SK) maj. Main 19-5; 126: Salomon (SK) pin 1:51; 132: Turner (RI) pin Bosley 2:04; 138: Davis (SK) forfeit; 145: Rudolph (SK) forfeit; 152: Taylor (RI) pin Carter 0:31.
Benedictine Prep 63, Strasburg 17
Individual results: 160: Cox (BP) pin Stern 0:55; 170: Tremain (BP) pin Shaw 0:48; 182: Ratlief (BP) forfeit; 195: Schoenborn (BP) forfeit; 220: Cohn (BP) pin Fake 0:51; 285: Smith (BP) forfeit; 106: Miller (S) forfeit; 113: Demyanovich (BP) dec. H. Burks 6-2; 120: Toland (BP) pin Clinedinst 0:40; 126: Howerton (BP) forfeit; 132: Dunham (BP) pin A. Burks 2:06; 138: J. Burks (ST) pin Davidson 3:39; 145: D. Burks (ST) TF Choate 17-2; 152: Crandall (BP) pin Reynolds 2:02.
Skyline 37, Benedictine Prep 34
Individual results: 170: Tremain (BP) pin Pearson 0:31; 182: Gue (SK) pin Ratlief 1:35; 195: Haskins (SK) maj. Schoenborn 12-3; 220: Cohn (BP) pin Mohr 0:51; 285: Moin (SK) dec. Smith 3-2; 106: double forfeit; 113: Arbogast (BP) maj. J. Domino 12-0; 120: Alyea (SK) pin Demyanovich 0:19; 126: Salomon (SK) pin Howerton 0:41; 132: Dunham (BP) 2:16; 138: Davis (SK) pin Davidson 0:33; 145: Rudolph (SK) pin Choate 0:11; 152: Crandall (BP) pin Carter 2:56; 160: Cox (BP) pin Sotelo 2:15.
Riverbend 39, Strasburg 33
Individual results: 170: Soaper (R) pin Shaw 2:06; 182: Riverbend win by forfeit; 195: double forfeit; 220: Fake (ST) pin Pressinger 0:45; 285: Etcho (RI) forfeit; 106: Miller (ST) forfeit; 113: H. Burks (ST) dec. Gipson 2-1; 120: Main (RI) pin Clinedinst 0:36; 126: Rasmussen (RI) forfeit; 132: Turner (RI) dec. A. Burks 2-1; 138: J. Burks (ST) forfeit; 145: D. Burks (ST) forfeit; 152: Taylor (RI) pin Reynolds 1:30; Stern (ST) forfeit.