James River had two wrestlers place as the Knights tied for 21st in the Class 2 state wrestling tournament at the Salem Civic Center last weekend. Poquoson High dominated the tournament, scoring 207 points to 101-1/2 for second place Clarke County.
River had six wrestlers competing in the tournament. Levi Walker finished highest for the Knights by taking a third place medal in the 220-pound weight class. Levi came into the tournament as a favorite but fell short in the semifinal match on Friday night.
After receiving a first round bye as region champ, Walker faced off against Arcadia High School’s Julian Dedicatori in the quarterfinals. Walker wrestled a tough match and came away with a 3-0 win to move into the semifinal championship round.
In the semifinal championship round, Walker faced off against Richlands High School’s Luke Martin. Martin was the region champion from Region D and each wrestler scored an escape and the match stayed tied 1-1 until the last few seconds of the match. Walker gave up a takedown but escaped to lose the match 3-2.
In the wrestle back bracket Levi faced off against Nandau High School’s Joe Castiglia, winning that match 4-0 to move into the consolation final for third.
Martinsville High School’s Joshua Pinkard was Levi’s opponent in the third place match. Pinkard beat Walker beat for third place last year, so the stage was set for an epic battle in the 220-pound class. The match was no let down in excitement as the entire civic center focused on the two powerhouses as they took to battle. The match ended the first period scoreless and Pinkard choosing bottom position to start off the second period. Walker rode Pinkard out for the second period until the end when Pinkard earned an escape point ending the second period tied 1-0.
Walker had choice beginning in the third period. Levi chose the down position in the third period but struggled in the first minute to escape from Pinkard. He eventually earned his escape to score one point to tie the match at 1-1.
Pinkard had other plans in the last minute of the match as he mustered a burst of energy and hit a double leg takedown on Walker and earned two points to take the lead 3-1 with only 20 seconds left in the match. Walker returned to the down position with 20 seconds left in the match and Pinkard committed an illegal move and Walker was awarded a penalty point, putting him down in the match by 1 point at 3-2. Levi then escaped with less than 10 seconds left to earn an additional point to tie the match and send it into sudden victory overtime at 3-3. The match proceeds to 3 sudden death overtime victory rounds and Walker earned his escape to earn the third place medal.
Jesse Carter, a senior 182-pounder, earned his first trip to the state tournament and also took home some hardware with a sixth place medal. Carter earned a first round win over Zach Robinson from Marion High School to advance to the quarterfinals where he faced off against Ryan Benitez from Buffalo Gap. Carter fell to Benitez by points with a loss of 4-1, sending him the consolation wrestle back brackets.
Carter then faced a tough opponent in Javian Moore from Strasburg High School in the quarterfinals of the consolation wrestle backs. Carter lost to Moore earlier in the year and this was a match to even the score. Carter wrestled a very sound strategy and walked away with close 5-3 victory moving him into the consolation semifinals and securing him a medal placement for the first time in his career.
In the consolation semi-finals, Carter faced off against the Region 2C champion from Appomattox High School, Aaron Mayes. Carter dropped the match to Mayes and Carter moved to the fifth and sixth place match where he finished his high school career with a sixth place finish.
“Levi and Jesse had a pretty good tournament,” said River coach Bobby Stewart. “Levi had his sights set a little higher on the podium this year and so did I. He fell short of his goal but that has motivated him for off-season and he is ready to go to work now preparing for next year already.
“Jesse Carter really stepped up his game this past couple weeks. It is a great accomplishment for him to qualify for the state for the first time and also place in the top six.”
That ended Stewart’s first season as coach.
“There is so much work that goes into this, people have no idea,” he said. “That is why we have an open door policy so people can see the work that put in to this. My coaching staff and I are happy with our first season. Coach (Chris) Witt and Coach (Jason) Cuddy are valuable assets to me and our team and I am glad they will be back next year. Those guys see the potential we have in this team and have committed to help building a program.”
Stewart is involved with the Team Botetourt Wrestling club all year round.
“Team Botetourt Wrestling Club has been a great resource for wrestlers from James River and Lord Botetourt in the off season,” he said. “Most placers from both schools are members of Team Botetourt Wrestling Club. My point is, all the resources are in place. Now the wrestlers have to decide to utilize those resources to secure goals they set.”
The Maggie Walker Governor’s School girls and George Mason boys won the Class 2 team titles.