QUICKSBURG — As the most experienced grappler in Stonewall Jackson’s wrestling room, junior Lance Dorman is often asked to help coach up the Generals’ younger wrestlers, a role he’s filled since he began competing for the varsity squad as a freshman two years ago. Dorman has been doing plenty of leading — and figures to do plenty more — for a Stonewall squad severely lacking in high school wrestling experience this winter.
The Generals enter the 2019-20 season with 13 wrestlers on their roster, a list that includes eight freshmen and an eighth-grader who won’t be eligible to compete in varsity matches. That leaves longtime head coach Jerry Franklin with a short list of varsity veterans, a group that includes Dorman and fellow juniors Hunter Cowart and Cameron Martinez and senior Damian Tapia.
“It’s gonna be fun,” Dorman said of getting the chance to work with so many young wrestlers. “Any time we’re wrestling, usually we’ll end up in a position and I’ll show them a few moves. But our freshmen are pretty experienced coming in. This is probably one of the best freshmen groups we’ve had in a long time. A few of them, Braxton (Biller), Jesse (Lemon), they’ve all wrestled before, so coming in here, it’s fun helping them out, showing them stuff.”
The fact that Dorman is physically able to lend a helping hand this season is a boost for the Generals. Dorman, who enjoyed a stellar freshman season in which he was the Shenandoah District and Region 1A/1B runner-up and a third-place finisher at the Class 1 state tournament at 106 pounds, broke his forearm before his sophomore season last year and missed the entirety of the 2018-19 season.
Dorman helped out where he could last winter, but he wasn’t able to physically challenge his teammates on the practice mat like he’s able to when he’s healthy.
“I still came in and helped out but now it’s just this year, being in there I can help out a lot more, show kids moves, teach them, show them how we should be working out and stuff like that,” said Dorman, who noted that he’ll wrestle at 126 pounds this season. “Last year we kind of went away from that a little bit but we’re starting to get back on track.”
Franklin said Dorman is playing an integral role in helping to build up the number of what Franklin considers quality varsity wrestlers.
“He pushes everybody in the room and he’s pushing people in the room now,” Franklin said. “He’s really pushing the freshmen that are around his weight tremendously right now. I’m hoping that’s gonna help them in the lower weights where he’s at, that’s around him. I hoping he’s gonna push them to be better.”
Franklin has high hopes for Dorman this season and noted that the junior is “hungry” after missing last season, adding that he anticipates Dorman to finish somewhere near the top of the heap at the Class 2 state tournament (Stonewall bumped up a classification in the most recent Virginia High School League realignment) in February.
Dorman shares those high expectations.
“This season I want to do it all,” Dorman said. “I want to win states this year. That’s what I’m hoping — districts, regional and states. We’ve got a few other guys that could be up there. I want to have as many podium finishes as possible.”
Stonewall sent six wrestlers to the Class 1 state tournament last season and three of those — Cowart, Martinez and Tapia — return this season. Of those six state qualifiers, only Cowart — who placed fifth at 132 pounds — took home a medal.
Tapia and Martinez went 2-2 and 1-2 at last year’s state tournament at 126 and 160 pounds, respectively.
Franklin said he expects Dorman, Cowart and Tapia to carry the team this season.
“I’m expecting those three to go back to states,” he said.
Of the eight freshmen, Franklin said, Biller, Lemon, Alvaro Tapia and Jorge Guzman Lucero should get a taste of varsity success right out of the gate. Franklin added that the Generals have a freshman heavyweight in Cole Anderson, but with no one else in the practice room nearly his size, it’ll be difficult to get Anderson the proper work outside of matches throughout the season.
“We have four of them that I think will win 50 percent of their matches,” Franklin said of the freshmen. “They’ve been in Little League wrestling and they’ve been doing good.”
Stonewall’s small roster means the Generals will once again be unable to field a full lineup, something that will limit their competitiveness in dual matches this season. Even if Franklin is able to stretch his roster to its maximum flexibility, he said, Stonewall will still forfeit bouts at 106, 113, 195 and 220 pounds.
“With the (eight) freshmen we have, I think it’s something to build on,” Franklin said. “And with only having Damian as our senior, I mean we’ve still got a couple years. I think next year, I’m hoping to make a little bit more noise. Might not have a full lineup but by the time it gets to tournament time, we don’t need a full lineup for tournament time.”
The postseason road gets tougher this season for the Generals — who also have moved from the Shenandoah District to the Bull Run District — as the standards for qualifying for the regional and state tournaments increase with the jump from Class 1 to Class 2. Last season, three of Stonewall’s six state qualifiers had records well below .500.
“I’m glad,” Franklin said of Stonewall’s move up to Class 2, “because, no offense, half of my squad shouldn’t have made it to states last year. Everybody made it and they shouldn’t have. I feel like you need to earn your spot.”