Both James River and Lord Botetourt will be well-represented when the Salem Civic Center plays host to the Virginia High School League Class 1, 2, and 3 state wrestling tournaments this weekend.
Action begins on the civic center floor with eight mats Friday morning for the first round. At 1 p.m. there will be quarterfinals for Class 1 through 3 and first round consolation matches for Class 3. Class 1 and 2 tournaments have the top three from each region while Class 3 has the top four. Consolation matches for all three classes will begin at 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday morning semi-finals begin at 10 a.m., followed by consolations semifinals at noon and consolation finals at 1:30 p.m. The championship matches will begin at 5 p.m.
James River qualified seven wrestlers for the Class 2 tournament at the regional at Radford on February 5, including defending state champs Hunter Forbes and Carder Miller. Coach Bobby Stewart is hoping for a big weekend with fans back in the seats after last winter’s tournament was “fanless” due to the pandemic.
“We have seven capable wrestlers,” said Stewart. “We are hoping to put all seven of those guys up on top of the podium and have another record-breaking, history-making year. Our goal is a first or second place team finish. Our goal has been to put a banner on the gym wall for years and we have a very good chance of doing it.”
Lord Botetourt will send 10 wrestlers to the Class 3 mats this weekend after finishing second in the Region 3D tournament at Northside High School last Saturday. Staunton River outscored the Cavaliers by just 22 points, 244-222, to win the title with Christiansburg third at 192-1/2 and William Byrd fourth at 152-1/2
“I thought our guys battled hard at the region,” said coach Chuck Burton. “We came up a little short but we qualified 10 guys and that’s the most I’ve ever personally had qualify. Really happy for the ones that were able to get to go but feel bad for those who came up short.”
LB had three region champions. Colin Sell won the 132-pound title with a 13-5 decision over Peyton Hatcher of Staunton River in the final. At 182, Conner Shiflett made short work of Northside’s Evan Elliott with a 39-second pin in the final and Dalton Oxley followed with a 4:42 pin of William Byrd’s Aiden Lucas in the 195-pound championship.
Botetourt had two runner-up finishes, Gray Arnold at 138 and Xavier Williams at 220. In the consolation finals three Cavaliers took third place, Chris Nichols at 106, Brogan Shutts at 145 and Trent Gallimore at 152. Qualifying for state with fourth place finishes were TJ Piluso at 160 and Titus Hopkins at 285.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend, we got one more battle in us this year,” said Burton. “I told the kids, they had 24 minutes of wrestling time left. Some maybe more, some maybe less, but right at 24 minutes left in their season. If they attack those 24 minutes, anything can happen this weekend.”
Stewart echoed those sentiments.
“Everything that happens prior to this weekend is kind of erased and everyone has the opportunity to kind of start over,” he said. “I’ve seen wrestlers who did not even win their regions and came back and won state championships. Don’t count anyone out until the final whistle blows.”