The Big Orange Classic, the “Granddaddy of Wrestling Tournaments in the Roanoke Valley” is set to begin today at William Byrd High School. The two-day tournament will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, December 22 and 23, in Vinton.
This will be the 44th annual tournament. The event began in 1976 and host William Byrd was the very first winner. Last year’s tournament was not held due to the coronavirus and the host the Terriers are excited to have the Big Orange back.
“Half our team is freshmen and sophomores and they haven’t had a chance to see it,” said Terrier coach Thomas Kessler, who has fond memories of wrestling in the tournament when he was a student at Byrd. “A lot of former Byrd wrestlers come back for the Big Orange. It means a lot to the community.”
In 2019-20, Class 1 powers Rural Retreat and Riverheads finished one-two in a 27-team field. This year 22 teams are entered in the tournament, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on both days. Both Lord Botetourt and James River will be in the field.
LB hopes to challenge for the title after getting off to a good start to the season. On December 11 the Cavaliers won the Titan Toughman individual tournament and last week they finished second to Glenvar in the “Bruin Brawl” in Blacksburg. That was a team tournament and Lord Botetourt went 4-1 on the day with wins over Christiansburg, 64-12, Liberty Christian, 48-30, Bandit Team, 63-18 and host Blacksburg, 44-35. That put the Cavs in the final, where they lost to Glenvar, 48-36.
“It was a great early season practice for our guys,” said LB coach Chuck Burton. “Some got to face adversity for the first time this year, while others continued to build on the good from the Titan Toughman. The wrestling season is a long grind, so we look on every event in December as a learning experience. We’re just hoping to continue to build on the good.”
LB also wrestled in a tri-match at Patrick Henry last week and defeated two valley opponents. Botetourt took a 63-11 win over Hidden Valley and a 58-21 win over the host Patriots.
On the same night James River was in Vinton to wrestle William Byrd and Salem. The Knights had just four wrestlers available due to protocols, so they lost both matches before they began. However, freshman Xaiden Wynn won five matches at 106, wrestling three exhibition matches, and Dakota Gilliam had a pin against Salem.
River has 11 total wrestlers on the team this year, including a few state contenders, but the team has struggled in the early going with health issues. Coach Bobby Stewart doesn’t expect to have everyone available for the Big Orange.
“We will not have a full lineup,” he said. “We have five guys who will most likely miss because of quarantine and not possibly having test results back in time. So we will see what happens. The exposure situation has not been very good to us.”
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