Strasburg wrestling coach Daniel Reynolds was having deja vu on Tuesday night, but this time things turned out differently.
The Rams’ match with Shenandoah County rival Central came down to a few matches at the end. Reynolds knew the key match was going to be at 215 pounds between reigning state champion Chuck Fake, of Strasburg, and Central junior Tyler Forbes. The two entered the match with Forbes ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2 and Fake ranked No. 2.
Reynolds knew Fake didn’t need to win the match; he just needed to avoid being pinned. Reynolds said Fake was in the same situation a few weeks earlier in a dual with Poquoson and the Bull Islanders got the pin and won the match.
“It was kind of a flashback to (the Poquoson match),” Reynolds said. “I looked at the clock and saw two seconds left and was like ‘whoo, we might have just saved ourselves there.’ (During the match) I was trying to relay the message to Chuck through all the noise but it was almost impossible to get a word to him because of how loud it was in the gym. I was like ‘I want you to win the match, of course. Try to win,’ and he did. He wrestled great. ‘Just don’t go to your back.’ And there was a couple close calls and every time it was like, ‘No I don’t care if you have to concede a takedown. Do not go to your back.’ And that’s something we say quite often, especially when duals are tight.”
Fake lost the match, 8-4, but not getting pinned helped No. 1 ranked Strasburg beat No. 3 ranked Central, 42-39.
Poquoson, who beat Strasburg by one point, is ranked No. 2 in the state. The Bull Islanders moved their wrestlers around to different spots, while Reynolds said he kept his wrestlers in their usual weight classes in that particular matchup. Reynolds said it’s good that they have seen some of the top teams in the state already.
The reigning Class 2 state champion Rams have lost only two dual matches, one to Poquoson and the other to Class 3 powerhouse Skyline, by 12 points.
Reynolds is also hoping his team will be at full strength when the postseason starts on Feb. 4 with the Bull Run District Tournament. Reynolds said both Ethan Asher (138 pounds) and Zach Bracken (144 pounds) missed Tuesday’s matches due to ailments. He said he also hopes to have freshman Hutson Conrad back no later than the district tournament. Conrad has missed the entire season due to a torn meniscus.
“We’ve been wrestling strong all year,” Reynolds said. “Obviously, we’ve had a couple mishaps. I do think we probably should have won that dual against Poquoson. That was one of our biggest mishaps of the year, But we told the guys we have to learn from the loss and going into the postseason we got to make sure we stay healthy.”
Central coach Dustin Thomas knows his team may not have won its dual meet with Strasburg on Tuesday, but the Falcons showed they are a team to be reckoned with in the postseason.
The Falcons lost by only three points to reigning Class 2 state champs Strasburg.
“We’re right where we need to be to go into postseason,” Thomas said. “We got one tournament left this weekend, and then we’ll get rolling again next week with districts. So I’m very pleased with (Tuesday).”
The Falcons have eight wrestlers ranked in the top eight in the state, led by Forbes at 215 pounds. Central senior Isaac Dodd (138) and junior Nathan Lopez (285) are both ranked second.
The Falcons finished seventh in the state last year, and Thomas said he feels good about what his team can do this season.
“We have a real good chance to be dangerous in the state tournament,” Thomas said. “I’m not saying we’re going to win it, but we’re going to be dangerous.”
Mountain View coach Greg Kleinsmith just arrived in the area from New York last month but he said he’s already seen growth from his young squad.
The Generals are led by seniors Jesse Lemon (138) and Braxton Biller (165). Both entered this week ranked third in the state. Lemon suffered a loss to Central’s No. 2 ranked Dodd, while Biller beat Strasburg’s No. 2 ranked Braden Stern on Tuesday.
Kleinsmith said the Generals suffered a setback earlier this season when senior Hunter Rinker (190) suffered a season-ending torn labrum.
Kleinsmith said he is still optimistic about the team in the postseason.
“I’m hopeful for guys like Jesse Lemon, Braxton Biller, a couple of our lighter weights, hopefully they can push through,” Kleinsmith said. “I’m hoping to have at least two guys at states this year. So crossing our fingers.”
The Warriors are hoping to peak at the right time.
Sherando is coming off of a Class 4 state runner-up finish last season, and have another solid squad this season.
The Warriors have two reigning state champs in Anthony Lucchiani (126) and Keagan Judd (150), but they also have depth. Isaac Cram (120), Tyler Koerner (132), Zachary Hayes (138), Brogan Teter (144), Jayden Patten (144), Peter Richardson (157), Jake Dann (165), Zane Jenkins (175), Storm Miller (190) and Judson Dean (215) all have solid records for the Warriors.
Sherando starts its postseason next weekend when it hosts the Class 4 Northwestern District Tournament on Feb. 3.
Sherando coach Brian Kibler said he wants his team to be healthy and ready for a strong postseason run.
“You got to make sure you’re ready for the postseason as it’s quickly approaching,” Kibler said last week. “We have to be ready for that at our place on Feb. 3.”
Skyline is also looking to get ready for the postseason. Unlike most of the districts, the Class 3 Northwestern District does not have a district tourney.
While the postseason may not start until Feb. 11, Skyline still has one big match next week. The Hawks will take on cross-town rival Warren County on Wednesday. A win gives the Hawks another Class 3 District title.
Skyline coach Kyle Symons said his seniors have won the district title every year, and it’s important to them to do it again this season.
The Hawks have also won the Region 3B title each of the last three years. Warren County will host the Region 3B Tournament on Feb. 11, and Symons said he feels good about his team’s chances.
“We’ve got to get better,” Symons said last week. “We have to continue to improve every day. And then hopefully when that week comes in February, we’ll be able to roll out our best kids up and down the lineup. And I think if we do that I really like our chances. Our kids are tough. They’re gritty and they’re able to get the job done.”
Skyline has finished second in the state in Class 3 the last two years, and Symons said there is still plenty of work to do if they want to take that next step.
“We’re happy with where we’re at, but we’re not satisfied,” Symons said. “We’ve got a ways to go yet. ...We just got to heal up, get ready and just be the team that we know we’re capable of being.”
The Wildcats will look to play spoiler on Wednesday when they host rival Skyline in the regular-season finale for both squads.
It will be the last home regular season match for Warren County seniors Michael Coffron, Gage Harvey and Ethan Register.
The young Wildcats are hoping to soon get junior Elijah Frame back from injury. Frame is 7-0 on the season.
Warren County has been led all season by a strong nucleus of wrestlers: Gabe Hetrick (106), Gabe Ferris (113), Carlos Billy (126), Register (132), Coffron (138), Blake McCarty (144), JT Sarchet (150), Frame (157), Gavin McMackin (175), Keyshawn Morgan (190), Harvey (215) and Smelser (285).
Warren County will be hosting the Region 3B Tournament on Feb. 11.
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