Lord Botetourt took first and James River was sixth among 17 teams competing in the Big Orange Classic wrestling tournament at William Byrd High School last Saturday. The Cavaliers’ victory was their second Big Orange championship in as many years.
“Heck of a job by all our kids Saturday,” said LB coach Chuck Burton. “Heck of a showing from all of Botetourt County to be honest with 10 finalists and 6 champions in all. Hat tip to Coach (River’s Bobby) Stewart doing good things with such a young team.”
LB had four individual champions. Gray Arnold won at 144 with a 12-6 decision over Stevie Wood of Liberty in the final as he improved to 10-2. At 165 TJ Piluso remained undefeated after 11 matches, defeating Matt McNeil of Liberty in the final by an 8-7 count.
Seth Williamson won the 175 pound class, pinning Isaac Hamilton of Liberty in the final in 5:54. Dalton Oxley won the 215 pound bracket, pinning William Byrd’s Aiden Lucas in the first period in the championship match.
LB had two seconds, Canden Saunders at 138 and Andrew Gilbert at 190. Trey Saunders was fourth at 132 and Joseph Bierece, Cody Williams, Hunter Miller, Cooper Roberts, Cayden Evans and 285 Gabe Glenn all contributed to the team score by picking up wins to help secure the team title.
“We’re very fortunate to have a lot of experience on our roster this year up and down the lineup,” said Burton. “It makes for a really good tournament team when you have kids scoring points at all times. I feel like we had a really complete all around tournament and we still have things we can improve on moving forward.”
River took sixth and was just one point behind fifth place Liberty Christian Academy from Lynchburg. The Knights had the second most finalists in the tournament with four as only LB had more with six.
“Congratulations to LBHS on the title for the second year in a row,” said River coach Stewart. “This is a testament to the improvements to Botetourt County wrestling over the last few years with more improvements in the future.”
As they did the previous weekend at Hidden Valley, the Knights opened the final with two champions. Sophomore Xaiden Wynn secured his second individual championship this year with a first-round win by pin over William Byrd’s Darin Witcher in the 1:41 mark. Xaiden’s record improves to 14-0 overall for the season with eyes set on higher accolades.
Brayden Forbes was up next at 113 and he secured his first Big Orange Championship with a win by pin over Brookville’s Andrew Turner deep in the third period in the 5:19 mark. Brayden finished second in the Big Orange last year so this year is a sweet victory. Brayden improves his record to 14-1 on the season with eyes on more titles to earn.
At 120 freshman Nate Stewart earned a second place finish for his first Big Orange appearance. Nate lost a nail biter match with a 7-5 loss in sudden victory overtime to William Byrd senior Dominic Pascoe. Nate had a revenge win in the semi-finals match over Wayshaun Hicks of Northside 7-6 punching his ticket to the finals. Nate improves his record to 14-5.
Freshman Josiah Merchant punched a ticket to the finals with arguably the most break-through match in the semi-finals in the entire tournament. Josiah wrestled the number two seed in the quarter finals and secured a victory into the semi-finals, where he faced Liberty High School’s Trace Markham, the third seed of the tournament. Merchant’s win against Markham with a pin at the 5:18 mark landed the freshman in the finals where he faced a tough Blacksburg opponent in Braden Henderson, taking runner-up honors.
“Overall, I am pleased with the progress of our producers,” said Stewart. “ We’re honing skills each week. Seems like we are developing a four horsemen scenario in our lower weights. That is a good sign, especially when these guys are the ones working with each other in the room daily. That’s how a team grows.”
The Knights also wrestled in a tri-match at Salem last week, defeating Northside in a tie breaker scenario, 39-39, before losing to Salem in a close one, 42-40. River is now off until December 29 and 30 when they wrestle in the Takedown the New Year tournament at Heritage High.
Lord Botetourt will head to Northside tonight, Wednesday, for the Blue Ridge District duals, and they’re also in the Heritage tournament next week.