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It was tournament-time this past weekend, and all three county wrestling squads were in action. Staunton River made the long journey to Winston-Salem, NC, for the Parkland Duals. Liberty and Jefferson Forest had shorter jaunts, as they both grappled in the Rustburg Invitational.
Eagles fly south
Staunton River went up against the best of the Tar Heel state, winning their first two matches, over Asheboro and Carver. The team's third match was against North Carolina defending AAA champion Parkland and the Eagles' fun ended there as they were swept across the board. In fact, Will Epperly was the only Eagle to avoid being pinned or dropping a technical fall. Epperly lost his match 8-3, however.
After dropping a close match to Butler, the Eagles faced off against North Carolina defending AA state champ McMichael. Staunton River built up an early lead thanks to wins by Cody Bramlett (103), Travis Claytor (112), Austin Wood (119), Epperly (130) and Jeremy Tyree (135). But the Eagles could only muster one more win (Tony Boughton at 152) the rest of the way as McMichael stormed back for the 44-28 win.
For the five matches, Staunton River was paced by Epperly, Tyree and Boughton, each of whom went 4-1. Others who had impressive trips to our neighbors to the south included Dustin Kidd (3-1 at 171) and Austin Carr (3-1 at 140). Bramlett, Claytor and Wood all logged 3-2 records.
The Eagles are obviously trying to go up against the best that they can get on their schedule. Head Coach Ron Long seems to be more concerned with toughening up his team and discovering any weaknesses rather than racking up victories against weaker opponents in the early going. "Fire tempers steel," said Long. "We are taking some lumps now, but it will pay off later."
Toward that end, the Eagles' travel to Hidden Valley this weekend to participate in the Titan Toughman, where they will face off against the likes of Northside, Covington and Blacksburg. The Eagles finished fourth in the Toughman last year.
Cavs, Minutemen work out rust
Liberty and Jefferson Forest participated in the Rustburg Invitational. The Cavs nabbed second place in the ten team field while Liberty settled for sixth. LCA was the overall winner while the host Red Devils took third.
Local lads won a number of top overall finishes. Forest's Will Drinkard took top honors at 103 pounds as did his teammate Jarret Payne at 125. Cav Yale Burch won out at 140 pounds to join Minuteman Justin Eubank (145) in a show of county strength at the middle weights. Forest really flexed some muscle in the higher echelons. Zach Cox (171), Chris Bowyer (215) and Brandon Beemer (Heavyweight) all took home top honors.
Liberty's Dustin Choate took second place at 119 to match Cav John Kelly at 135. The Minutemen got third place finishes out of Robert Smith (135) and Taylor Kennedy (171). Forest saw Joe Little earn a third place at 160 pounds.
Minutemen Head Coach Darryl Updike pushed most of his wrestlers up a class due to his being a couple of wrestlers short. Liberty only had nine dedicated wrestlers for the fourteen weight classes. Throwing out all the forfeits, the Minutemen would have ended up near the top of the heap. Updike may consider taking out a "help wanted" ad in the Bedford Bulletin to fill out his roster. Starting spots are available!
Nonetheless, Updike liked what he saw from those he did bring. "We really turned it up on Saturday," he exclaimed. "I was pleased with the effort and heart this group displayed. Don't get me wrong we still have a long way to go but this first step is in the right direction."
Finally, Forest's Josef Goepfrich added an international flair to the meet. The transfer student from Germany finished in fourth place at 189 pounds. Gross Gott!
Forest will join Staunton River at Hidden Valley's Titan Toughman this weekend. Liberty will head to James River for the River Duals on Saturday.