FRONT ROYAL — A few weeks before the high school wrestling season started, Warren County head coach Matt Wadas said the Wildcats had an interesting blend of very experienced and very inexperienced wrestlers. Against a veteran Brentsville District squad on Wednesday night, the Wildcats’ youth was exposed.
The Tigers, the defending Region 3B champs, sent seven 2019 state qualifiers into the circle against Warren County in their Class 3 Northwestern District dual and spoiled the Wildcats’ senior night with a 57-22 victory.
It was Warren County’s second loss in head-to-head duals with the Tigers over the past two seasons.
“We just wanted to go out and wrestle hard and understand that this isn’t the end of the season,” Wadas said afterward. “They’re a great team. They showed us what our weaknesses are and now we’ve got to go back to work and work on those. They’re an experienced team who knows how to be on the mat, and I talked at the start of the season about our youth, we showed some of our youth tonight, and that’s OK, as long as we learn from it and get better.”
Wadas, whose squad won just three contested matches against Brentsville, said the Tigers showcased the importance of sticking to the basics and to what works well, something Warren County’s less experienced wrestlers didn’t do.
Wadas added that the Wildcats, who return to action in the Strasburg Duals on Friday (the tournament was moved up a day due to the threat of winter weather on Saturday), would focus on discovering the basics and finding their No. 1 moves in practice on Thursday.
Senior 152-pounder Isaiah Frame, one of the few victorious Wildcats, said his teammates would be better for the experience they got against a Brentsville squad that should again challenge for the regional crown and be among the top teams at the Class 3 state tournament next month.
“Wrestling teams like that will help a lot for our younger, less-experienced kids because it’s gonna show them what it’s like to wrestle those really good kids,” Frame said. “It’s only gonna make them that much better, so when states come around they’ll hopefully be a lot better than they were at the beginning of the season.”
Frame (25-2), a three-time state qualifier and a two-time state medalist, was the first Wildcat to win a contested bout on Wednesday when he majored Brentsville senior Matthew Basala, a two-time state qualifier, 14-5 in their 152-pound match.
By that point the Wildcats trailed 29-10 (Warren County 145-pounder Dylan Becker won by forfeit to put the Wildcats on the board) and they wouldn’t score again until sophomore Logan Schultz pinned Nicholas Griffin early in the second period of their 195-pound bout.
Warren County gave up eight pins in the loss, and in addition to the Wildcats’ younger wrestlers getting overpowered by their more-experienced counterparts, a couple of Warren County’s more established grapplers drew tough assignments.
Senior 132-pounder Brandon Mason, who entered the night 11-0 for the Wildcats on the season, ran into a three-time state runner-up in John Carayiannis and lost by tech fall in the fourth bout of the dual.
Similarly, Warren County junior 170-pounder Brennan Komelasky (23-4) drew a matchup with Yuri Smaltz, a three-time state qualifier, and though Komelasky scored four reverses to keep things close, Smaltz scored 5 points in the final 30 seconds en route to a 17-9 victory.
Brentsville’s eight other wins were pins.
“Some of the kids weren’t as conditioned as they should’ve been and some of them maybe were not mentally ready for it,” Schultz, a first-year starter, said. “Maybe they got psyched out after going out for the handshake, started getting anxiety or something. Some kids go out there and hope for the best and they do the best, and some kids go out and hope for the best and sometimes they get hit with a state champ. It’s just circumstances. Sometimes stuff doesn’t add up, doesn’t go your way.”
Junior heavyweight Tony Bitter was the third and final Wildcat to pick up a win on Wednesday and had by far the team’s most dominant performance of the dual, as the 2019 state qualifier needed just 32 seconds to pin Brentsville freshman Tyler Nix.
“I was looking at his record and I felt good about it, and seeing Logan pin his kid right beforehand — I was under the bleachers for the rest of (Wes Merchant’s loss to Brentsville’s Tate Lang at 220), so Logan’s match kind of set the tone for me. I went out there thinking just ‘I’ve got to pin this kid, it’ll up the score.’”
Warren County, which went 5-0 to win the Freedom Duals last weekend, has a little less than a month before starting the postseason with the Region 3B tournament.
“The biggest thing is to understand where we are, that we’re not to the postseason, we’ve got some weeks left,” Wadas said. “We’ve got to identify what we want to work on and keep working towards the goal of getting as many kids as we can to states. I think that’s the focus we’ve gotta do. I think right now this part of the season is starting to focus on ourselves, whereas the first part of the season you’re sort of looking at everybody else, you’re looking at the lineup. We know our lineup now, we know our guys, we’ve got to focus on what we need to fix.”