The wrestling post-season is upon us, with area grapplers battling to qualify for the Class 1, 2 and 3 state tournaments at the Salem Civic Center on February 18 and 19.
Lord Botetourt will wrestle in the Region 3D tournament this Saturday at Northside. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
James River competed in the Region 2C tournament in Radford last Saturday and finished second to Glenvar, ending a three-year reign the Knights held from 2019 through 2021. The Highlanders finished with 223 points to 180.5 for James River. Alleghany was next with 157.5 points and Patrick County was fourth with 141.
The top three in each weight class advance to Salem, and River had seven of 11 wrestlers entered make the semifinal round in Radford. Winning semifinal matches were freshman Xaiden Wynn at 106, Craig Bowyer at 120, Chase Cuddy at 126, Hunter Forbes at 160 and Carder Miller at 195. Brayden Forbes, at 113, and heavyweight Dakota Gilliam fell in their semifinal matches and dropped to the consolation bracket.
“Consolation wrestle-back rounds are the rounds where you have the pressure of wrestling hard back to a third place finish,” said River coach Bobby Stewart. “If a wrestler does not finish third that wrestler does not advance to the state tournament.”
Brayden Forbes won two consolation matches to take third and earn a spot in the state as a freshman and Wesley Ferguson also finished third at 145, wrestling back from a quarterfinal loss to take a spot in the state. Gilliam finished fifth and both Chris Wenk, at 132, and 152-pound Michael Jorgenson took sixth place in the region.
Closing the evening out was a single mat championship finals for the Region 2C championships. Announcements were made while the music filled the gym as the finalists were introduced to the crowd and each other.
The first finals match was River’s Wynn in the 106-pound class. Wynn faced Glenvar’s Alan Vu in the finals. The wrestlers were very used to wrestling each other and made for a scoreless first period until Vu secured a reversal in the beginning of the second period. Wynn answered with reversal himself and then hit 2 cross face cradles to secure back points to end the third period with an 8-2 lead. In the third period Wynn secured another cradle and achieved the fall making him the first 2022 champion of the tournament.
At 120, Bowyer was up as the third match of the night but the second Knight to compete in the finals. Craig wrestled a formidable foe in Mason Hylton from Glenvar. The match was a scoreless match in the first period and Bowyer secured an escape from bottom in the second period giving him the lead 1 – 0. Hylton took the bottom position in the third period and Bowyer completes a two-minute “nail biter” ride out for the win and his second Region 2C Championship for the third year wrestler.
Cuddy was up next in the 126-pound weight class. Cuddy, a state favorite, was against Glenvar sophomore foe Ryan Kirby. Cuddy secured multiple takedowns and near fall points to secure a technical fall win in the three minute mark of the match and garnered Chase a four-time Region 2C Champion.
Hunter Forbes was the 160-pound favorite and seeking his third consecutive Region 2C championship. Forbes paired up against Martinsville’s Jamier Manns. Manns, a senior, was able to hold off the competing senior in Forbes. Forbes secured the win by pin over Manns in the 1:52 mark of the first period. Hunter Forbes’ win secured him his third consecutive Region 2C title for the Knights advancing him to the state tournament where he is looking to repeat as state champion again.
The last finalist for the Knights was senior 195-pound Carder Miller. Also a state favorite, Carder was not on the match much with his previous wins of the day and the finals only kept him on the mat for 1:56 to secure the fall over Patrick County’s Tristan Hardy. Miller is now a two-time consecutive Region 2C champion and seeking a second consecutive state championship title before he embarks on his collegiate wrestling career at Liberty University.
“In my opinion, we finished up where I figured we would,” said Stewart. “I was hoping we could put something together as a team that may make us contend for a fourth consecutive region title this year but the odds were against us all year. We had several of our starters not return this season for various reasons. These starters were state placers, region champs, and overall point scoring wrestlers that would have made a huge impact for the program.”
Seven Knights move on the state, and that’s still a great number.
“Our goal is to seek five state titles,” said Stewart. “This has never been done before at James River. There is always a silver lining.”