Lord Botetourt was fifth and James River took ninth in the 19-school Titan Toughman wrestling tournament at Hidden Valley High School last weekend.
The tournament was moved up a day to avoid the impending snowstorm, and three teams dropped out due to the reschedule. Patrick Henry won the tournament with 205 points while William Byrd was second with 184. Next came Abingdon and Hidden Valley, followed by LB with 152 points. Staunton River, Northside and Salem were sixth through eighth and River was the first Class 2 school with 121 points.
“I feel pretty good about that considering we only had eight scoring wrestlers entered into the tournament,” said LB coach Chuck Burton. “Of those eight, all scored team points and six of them placed in the top six.”
LB had two champions. Jacob Brown won the 170-pound class and in doing so captured his 100th career victory with a major decision, 11-1, over Byrd’s Zach Moore in the finals. Sam Francis also finished first, winning the 145-pound class. Nick Young took a third at 120 with a first round pin in the consolation final and Hunter Sell wrestled to a fourth place medal at 160.
“I am very pleased with where we are at this early in the season,” said Burton. “Having a schedule change and an alteration in our training schedule, I was a bit worried about how we would perform. Overall, we wrestled well and responded well.
“We should be getting back close to full strength in the coming weeks as we head to Turner Ashby this weekend. Once we get everyone to the right weight classes and all of our kids back in the lineup, I feel like we will keep getting better as we move through the season.”
River was wrestling just one day after a match at Rockbridge when the Titan Toughman was moved up a day.
“It is a task to wrestle back to back like this,” said coach Bobby Stewart. “Weight control being the first priority, the guys are really managing their weight with no practices in between. They have to be dialed in and focused and not allow the mental part to get them down with strict dieting and weight management back to back. The guys all made weight perfectly.”
The Knights had 13 of their 14 wrestlers still alive on the second day of the tournament. River was in seventh place overall after the first day of wrestling.
“We were ahead of all the larger schools and I was feeling good,” said Stewart. “This was James River’s first appearance at this level of competition and I knew day two had some really tough competition and our guys would see the studs of the valley in parts of the brackets closing in on the championship round.”
The Knights had some great performances Friday as Levi Walker won the heavyweight class, decisioning Shane Mitcham of Blacksburg in the final, 1-0. Levi won his semifinal in quadruple overtime.
“Levi is on track, sitting at 12-0 so far this season and eyeing the state title,” said Stewart. “We have a lot of wrestling to do between now and then but that is the goal.”
Senior Ian Hester walked away with a third place medal at 126 pounds. Ian had a very solid performance and avenged a loss from the Shumaker Classic against Christop Hunt from Northside.
Freshman Chase Cuddy finished third in the 106-pound class. Chase found himself in the same side of the bracket with eventual champion, JB Dragovich from Hidden Valley. Chase being a freshman wasn’t seeded coming in the tournament so he faced Dragovich in the round of 16 in the second round of the tournament and lost just 4-2. No one else in the tournament went the distance with Dragovich.
“I feel if Chase was seeded in the other side of the bracket he would have been in the finals against Dragovich and had a good match,” said Stewart.
Freshman Wesley Ferguson took home a fifth place finish in the 120-pound weight class and freshman Hayden Miller took sixth place in the 113-pound weight class.
Last Wednesday the Knights wrestled a tri-match at Rockbridge County High against the host Wildcats and Robert E. Lee High of Staunton. River beat Lee, 61-12, but lost to Rockbridge, 42-33. Both are Class 3 schools.
“My goal is getting the team oriented to a higher level of competition and building confidence there,” said Stewart. “Then when we drop back to our district and region we are ready to dominate and are prepared for the state tournament.”
This Saturday River will wrestle at the Madison County High School Duals, beginning at 9 a.m. Next Wednesday, Dec. 19, the Knights will host Lord Botetourt in Springwood.