The Salem Civic Center will be the site of the “Big Dance” for Class 1, 2 and 3 state wrestling tournaments once again this weekend. Lord Botetourt will send six wrestlers to Salem for the Class 3 tournament, including a Region 3D champion, while James River will send four wrestlers to the Class 2, three of whom won Region 2C championships at James River High School last Saturday.
The three state tournaments begin in Salem at 10 a.m. Friday with first round bouts. At 1 p.m. Friday, Class 1-3 quarterfinals will be held along with first round consolation matches for Class 3. Consolation matches for all three classes will be from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Friday night.
Semifinals for all three classes will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by semi-final consolations at 11:30 a.m. and consolation finals at 1 p.m. to determine places third through sixth in all three classes. Championship finals are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
Xaiden Wynn, Brayden Forbes and Nate Stewart of James River will all be top seeds after winning Region 2C championships in Springwood last Saturday. The Knights finished fifth as a team out of 10 schools with Glenvar winning the Region 2C championship.
At 106, Wynn, a junior, earned his third Region 2C championship with a major decision over Jacob Flowers of Glenvar in the final. Wynn goes to Salem with a 27-2 record. Xaiden has racked up over 20 pins this season and has not lost to a Class 2 opponent all season.
At 120, Forbes, also a junior, earned his second Region 2C championship with a win by major decision over Tanner Atkinson of Dan River High School, 13-2. Forbes enters the state tournament with an undefeated record of 30-0. Brayden is the only undefeated 120-pounder in the state tournament.
At 144, sophomore Nathan Stewart earned his second Region 2C championship with a win by pin over Martinsville’s Jordan Draper early in the second period at two minutes and 18 seconds. Stewart’s record improved to 25-3 after winning back-to-back region championships. Nathan’s only losses this season came from close final championship losses in the best wrestling tournaments in the valley.
Freshman Caiden Martin qualified for the state with a third place finish at 113 and sophomore Jayden Alston will be an alternate at 175 after finishing fourth in the region. Also scoring for the Knights, but falling short of advancing, were sophomore CJ Mullins with a fifth at 215 and two freshman with sixth place finishes, Ryan Daniels at 132 and Efraim Echavarria at 150.
“We had a good tournament,” said River coach Bobby Stewart. “Our young guys and girl got some experience out of the region. Although they did not qualify for the state tournament the experience with help them next year.
“Our three power wrestlers are the best in the state. Xaiden Wynn, Brayden Forbes and Nate Stewart all have a very good chance of leaving Salem with a state championship under their belt. James River will have a presence in the championship finals this weekend.”
Lord Botetourt finished third as a team in the Class 3D tournament at Abingdon last Saturday. Staunton River won the region team championship and William Byrd finished second.
“Our region is very difficult,” said coach Paul Craft. “Most of the guys that win our region will win the state tournament.”
LB had one region champion, Aaden Thomas at 215.
“Aaden is just a sophomore and only weighs about 190 pounds, but he’s been on a mission all season,” said Craft. “He’ll probably end up being the number one seed in the state tournament this weekend. Aaden wasn’t even a starter for us last season as a freshman, now he’s put himself in a position to win a state title. His dad (Danny Thomas) is an assistant coach for us and I know he’s very proud of Aaden’s effort and focus.”
Senior Gray Arnold took second at 150 and TJ Piluso, another senior, was third at 165. Piluso won his 100th high school match in his first match of the region tournament.
“That’s no small task by itself, but what makes it incredible is that his freshman season was the COVID season and he only wrestled a couple matches. He pulled off 100 plus wins in just three seasons!”
Sophomore James Dean also picked up a third at 120. He just moved to Botetourt County in late December from South Carolina.
Also qualifying for the state tournament with fourth place finishes were freshman Jacob Spence at 113 and junior Cooper Roberts at 157. Also scoring for LB with fifth place finishes were Kevin Gergely at 144, Seth Williamson at 175 and Ty Hensley at 190 while Declan Sullivan was sixth at 126.
“Overall, we wrestled well over the weekend, but it isn’t over yet,” said Craft. “We’ve got to finish the season strong. The hay is in the barn.”