The James River Knights will be among the favorites in the state Class 2 wrestling tournament, which is scheduled for Friday at the Salem Civic Center. The tournament was still on at press time after the Class 3 tournament, scheduled for Thursday, was postponed due to the threat of bad weather.
The Knights are hoping to get on the mats Friday after winning their third straight Region 2C championship in Springwood last week. The tournament was listed as a “sub-region,” but when the regional at Patrick County was cancelled on Saturday the sub-region served as the championship round and James River came out on top.
The results from Tuesday’s tournament were used for advancement to the VHSL Class 2 state championships. The top two placers from each region will be entered into an eight-man bracket, all wrestling for an elusive state title.
In “non-pandemic” seasons four wrestlers from each region would advance to the state. Despite a much more difficult state qualifying scenario the Knights still managed to advance 10 of their 12 wrestlers to Salem, including eight region champions. The Knights did not have wrestlers in the 120- and 138-pound weight classes.
James River scored 207.5 points with second place Glenvar trailing by 69 points with 138.5. Patrick County at third with 119.5. Radford had 83 points and Fort Chiswell scored 62.
Region 2C champions from James River are Timmy Bennett at 106, Craig Bowyer at 113, Chase Cuddy at 126, Dustin Crawford at 152, Hunter Forbes at 160, Addison McCaleb at 182, Carder Miller at 195 and Dakota Gilliam at 285. Also qualifying for the state with second place finishes were Mason Stewart at 145 and Adam Coleman at 170.
“This has been an odd year,” said River coach Bobby Stewart. “And when I say odd, I mean the oddest. We had to practice different, schedule different, travel different, train different. Everything was different. But in the end our boys performed.
“My coaching staff and I express to the guys all the time that adversity is what we are training for. When you can overcome adversity and achieve your goals everything else in life will be easier. I had to overcome adversity this year as a coach. I have a few wrestlers that didn’t come out this year due to the pandemic. We had to make sure we broadcast the matches via Facebook live or a streaming system so parents could watch their kids participate.
“When you have bad service or a streaming system that isn’t operating correctly you have a stress placed on you that keeps you from focusing on the sport and coaching. We had restrictions we had to adhere to and protocol to follow. We had kids quarantined due to exposures and missed most of the season. We had a few things that made our jobs tough but we did it. And here we are three time region champs and eyeing a team state title.”
Cuddy’s region title was his third while Bennett, Forbes and McCaleb won for the second time. Back in December it was uncertain if they would get the chance to even wrestle this season.
“I am appreciative of the staff support we have from Dr. Taylor, Athletic Director Wyatt, and Athletic Trainer Kim Kirk,” said Stewart. “I can see these folks’ belief in the program and they did everything in their power to give us an opportunity. A big thanks to Dr. Russ for allowing us to participate. Dr. Russ and our school administration took the risk and we brought a team regional title home to the school.”
Now, the Knights are hoping to add their first state wrestling trophy to the case.
“I am extremely proud of the boys,” said Stewart. “They have impressed me with their dedication and now we want to see all the work pay off this Friday. We have several guys who are state contenders. If they perform well then they will achieve their goals. Them achieving their goals helps me achieve my goals. Let’s cross our fingers we perform well and go get that state title.”