County matmen shine at conference tourneys

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35 wrestlers advance to regionals

By Mike Forster


In case you wanted to question the strength that Bedford County schools are building in wrestling, consider last weekend's performances.

Bedford may not yet be a hot spot, but it's sure warming up.

While the Christiansburgs and Grundys of the grappling world shouldn't yet be concerned, Bedford wrestlers are certainly making their marks in the sport.

The latest display of growth and improvement came over the past weekend, during conference wrestling tournaments.

With the new VHSL setup, all three local teams are placed in different conferences.  That gave county schools the opportunity to shine.  And, boy, did they ever.  Staunton River and Jefferson Forest each claimed conference crowns, while Liberty took third in its conference.

"Bedford County wrestling has really taken off," said Staunton River Head Coach Ronnie Long.  "We have tough kids here and wrestling is a sport we're now excelling in."

The facts back up the coach's assertion.

Jefferson Forest's win in Conference 24 came hot on the heels of the Cavs' team win in the Seminole District wrestle-off.

Staunton River's victory in Conference 31 adds more bling to the Eagle trophy case.  Earlier, Staunton River had claimed the Blue Ridge District regular season title.

Liberty, wrestling in Conference 30, managed a very respectable third place, behind last year's State runner-up Brookville and powerful Tunstall.

And the cherry on the county's sundae:  All three of the school's head coaches were named Coach of the Year in their respective conferences:  Liberty's Ethan Lucas in Conference 30, River's Long in Conference 31 and JF's Hutch Hutchinson in Conference 24.

"Our goal is to get 10 wrestlers in the finals," said Coach Hutch at the start of the Conference 24 meet, which JF hosted.  "That's not my goal; that's the guys' goal."

Well, they nearly achieved that goal.  The team only fills ten slots.  Nine of those wrestlers advanced to the finals, with five taking titles.  

By the way, the only one who didn't make it to the finals was Peyton Woodall, who was severely hampered by a hand injury he suffered in his second bout.

Long was thrilled with his team's result, noting that it's the fourth time in five years that the Golden Eagles have won the district/conference.

"Overall it was a great team effort," he said.  "We all pulled together."

While the guys who were expected to win did so, Long had a couple of nice surprises.  Nick Ashe came into the event unseeded, yet took third at 106, providing valuable points.

Charles Collier, out for most of the season with a concussion, knocked off the rust in time to earn third place at 120 pounds.

Christian Simmons, who has been battling teammate Taylor Blake for mat time at 138 pounds, earned his way into this tourney where he beat top-seeded Brandon Siner of Northside in the finals.

Liberty was heartened by a pair of wins in the finals.  Cody Oulette, who has caught fire late in the season, kept up his mojo by pinning Heritage's J'Meek Austin in the final to take top honors.

Nick Clark patiently waited out his opponent in the final.  With a minute to go in the match, he put Tunstall's Lee Strickland down for the count to take first place at 195.


Conference 24 team scores

1.  Jefferson Forest 200

2.  GW-Danville 171

3.  E.C. Glass 148

4.  Pulaski Co. 139

5.  William Fleming 129

6.  Carroll Co.  97

7.  Bassett  79

8.  Salem  64


Conference 30 team scores

1.  Brookville 163

2.  Tunstall 142

3.  Liberty 121

4.  Rustburg  92

5.  Heritage  76


Conference 31 team results

1.  Staunton River 204

2.  Lord Botetourt           197.5

3.  Northside 175

4.  Alleghany 168

5.  Rockbridge 144

6.  William Byrd 126

7.  Magna Vista  65



Here's a number for you to consider:  35.

It's a nice number.  It's divisible by both seven and five.    It's the atomic number for bromine.  It's the minimum age for someone to be elected to the U.S. presidency.  It's also the number of county wrestlers who are still in the running, following conference wrestle-offs.

Jefferson Forest will be sending 10 to the 4A-North meet this weekend at Eastern View.

Liberty will dispatch an even dozen to Staunton River, host of the 3A-West meet.  The Eagles will fill 13 slots (though two of those slots will be filled by SR wrestlers to plug bracket gaps).

Here are the wrestlers who will be in action this weekend (shown with their place in last weekend's conference tourneys).


-113:  Nate O'Brien (3)

-126:  Ethan Plott (3)

-132:  Trevor Rice (3)

-138:  Hunter Toms (3)

-145:  Jonathan Tice (4)

-152:  Kyle Rusher (3)

-160:  Cody Oulette (1)

-170:  Zach Harmony (3)

-182:  Tucker Grant (3)

-195:  Nick Clark (1)

-220:  Jarrett Rusher (3)

-285:  Tyler Gordon (2)


Staunton River

-106:  Nick Ashe (3)

-113:  Nick Jennings (2)

-120:  Charles Collier (3)

-126:  Thomas Rezzonico (3)

-132:  Jake Thompson (1)

-138:  Christian Simmons (1)

-145:  Quannie Blake (1)

-152:  Jordon Thompson (4)

-160:  Kenny Hale (2)

-170:  Tyron Drew (4)

-182:  Elijah Seay (1)

-195:  AJ Sheets (5)

-220:  Quinton Ayers (6)


Jefferson Forest

-113:  Randy Lin (1)

-120:  Blake Justis (1)

-126:  Bret Romanzak (1)

-132:  Anthony Rubilar (2)

-138:  Peyton Woodall (4)

-145:  Luke Mitchell (1)

-152:  Erik Smith (2)

-160:  Taylor Goolsby (2)

-170:  Will Norvelle (1)

-182:  Matt Canter (2)


Regional notes

Region 4A-North and 3A-West are both made up of four conferences.  As each conference will send four wrestlers per weight class, there will be a 16-man bracket at each of the meets.

In order to accommodate such a venture, action will kick off at Staunton River on Friday at 2 p.m.

The 3A-West showdown figures to be especially brutal.  Staunton River and Liberty will have to deal with the usual powerful contingents from Brookville, Northside and Lord Botetourt, to name a few.  Additionally, they'll get to square off with some fine wrestlers from the likes of Cave Spring, Abingdon, Monticello and Turner Ashby.

But the real lion in the cage is mighty Christiansburg, which has been winning State championships since many of these wrestlers had their singlets made by Pampers.

"It's a monster division," said River's Long.  "I'll be surprised to have more than three or four advance."