Wallace, Huff help Clarke take 3rd in Region B
STRASBURG — Ben Wallace has already earned the respect of so many in Region B by the way he can dominate a wrestling match.
Just the way he handles prep work from his coaches, all the way down to how he carries himself on the mat, leaves plenty of people in awe of his talents.
So there Wallace was again on Saturday, joined by Clarke County teammate Ryan Huff, in the final round of the Region B Tournament. Besides being finalists, there was a little extra incentive for the Eagles pair. If the two finalists from both Central and Riverheads each lost their matches, and Wallace (who wrestles at 170 pounds) and Huff (285) not only won but got wins by fall in theirs, the Eagles could move up two spots and secure third place in the tournament.
As it was, everything came together perfectly. Central and Riverheads went without a win in the finals, while Wallace and Huff each got the pins needed for themselves and Clarke County to rally back and gain third place.
The win for Wallace represented yet another milestone for him. One week after recording his 100th career pin in the Bull Run finals, Wallace set the Clarke County career record for wins with 138 in his Region B final win over Buffalo Gap’s Tristen Roberts.
Wallace also added the honor of Region B Wrestler of the Year to go with the same award he won as the Bull Run’s top grappler. And, he’s just a junior.
“I practiced hard this week to get ready,” Wallace said. “I have great coaches. They all help [by showing] great technique, skills, they know moves that are best for us. They know us personally. They’re just great guys all-around.”
Both Wallace and Huff, also a junior, gained second-period pins and the Eagles finished up with 116 points, just ahead of Riverheads (fourth with 114) and Central (fifth with 105).
The depth of Strasburg and Manassas Park was too much to overcome for Clarke County, but the Eagles did great to find points (seven wrestlers won at least two matches) and also improve two spots from last week’s Bull Run District championships, when they trailed both William Monroe and Central at the end of the day.
“I never envisioned us taking third,” Clarke County coach Jon VanSice said. “When we came into the tournament [finals], the possibility of taking fourth looked really good. I liked our chances there [of passing Central], but I did not think we were going to pass Riverheads. We were two-for-two, with those extra bonus-points, and we just happened to leap-frog those guys. It was just a great effort by my two finalists there. Just outstanding.”
Though they had two fewer individual champions this week, Strasburg (190 points) still placed a region-best five in first place and switched spots with Bull Run champ Manassas Park (167 points) on the home mat to win the Region B title.
Even before Wallace and Huff took the mat, they had teammates bounce back from a tough consolation semifinal round [Clarke County was 1 for 4 there] to keep scoring points. Brandon Hutchinson, the team’s only senior, gained the other state qualifying spot by finishing fourth at 132, and junior Anthony Marasco (120) and sophomore Mark Alexander (220) each finished fifth and are state alternates.
“They [Alexander and Marasco] got fifth places and got us bonus points in those matches right there,” VanSice said. “Yeah, they kept wrestling and they kept alive enough to contribute. Every point helps.”
Because they wrestle in the upper weights, Wallace and Huff had to wait for their chance to help the Eagles lock down third. Close, low-scoring matches ahead of them (only two of the first nine matches in the finals were won by fall) probably led to some restlessness for the pair. But once they were on the mat, Wallace and Huff repeated their season-long dominance.
In facing Roberts, Wallace began with a fireman’s carry for the initial takedown and earning a five-point move on the Bison senior with a cradle, before using a second cradle for two back-points near the end of a first period to take a 9-1 lead.
After Roberts chose neutral to begin the second period, Wallace (43-2) got another takedown about midway through and locked-in Roberts with another cradle to win with a pin in three minutes, 23 seconds for his first region title.
Wallace won all four of his matches by fall (his career total going to 104), and he also had a double-digit lead when he pinned Stonewall Jackson’s Ryan Pugh in the third period of the championship semifinals.
“He showed a wide array of cradles,” VanSice said. “He was looking for the one he wanted [against Roberts], and finally, he got it. It’s easy-does-it, locks it in nice and slowly. Hit that mat [with the move], and it was over.”
Wallace broke Joe Nappi’s career-mark for wins, which Nappi set just last season.
“That was a nice little bonus [for Wallace],” VanSice said. “Then, he caps that off with the OW [Outstanding Wrestler] award.”
By the time Huff took the mat for the tournament’s final bout, the Eagles knew they could tie Riverheads with a win and pass with a pin. Huff was determined to get the six points need to accomplish it.
Facing old rival Enrique Torres from Manassas Park, Huff spent most of the first period locking shoulders with his foe. In the second period, Torres chose down and Huff was able to make the junior rise up enough so he could repeat the script and turn a scoreless match into a dominant finish. Huff (43-1) took Torres to the mat and pinned him for the third straight time, getting the fall in 3:09 to clinch third for Clarke County.
Like Wallace, Huff earned a first-time region title. Huff recorded three wins by fall, including rallying from down 7-4 to pin Randolph-Henry’s Nick Dejarnette in the championship semifinals, and won another by default.
A tall and rugged 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Huff often gives heavyweights a different dimension to contend with.
“He’s got length, which a lot of heavyweights don’t have — as [we] saw in this tournament,” VanSice said. “There’s a lot of short, squat, heavier guys. He uses his leverage, definitely, to his advantage. He’s come a very long way this year.”
“My goals at the beginning of the season were to place in states, win regions, and win districts,” Huff said. “Torres is tough kid to hold down. Give him credit because he’s a real good wrestler.”
The Eagles will take only three wrestlers to state, as Hutchinson (18-12) joins Wallace and Huff. Hutchinson, who lost a tough 8-4 decision to Manassas Park’s Fabian Rodriquez in the championship semifinals (after losing to the Cougar by technical fall in a regular season dual), was the only Eagle to win in the consolation semifinals, then dropped another tough, 9-6 decision in the match for third place.
“He’s a senior and that’s awesome for him [to qualify for states],” Wallace said of Hutchinson. “It’s really good to see him go senior year, and he’s stepped it up for us a lot.”
Wallace went to the state tournament last season and is hoping for a higher place this time around.
“I’m excited about going back,” Wallace said. “Hopefully, I’ll have a better result. I was seventh last year and eighth my freshman year. When you’re at the bottom of the podium, it always stinks.”
Even though Clarke County will be small in number, VanSice expects good things from his trio that will compete at the Salem Civic Center in the Group A championships on Friday and Saturday.
“We’re bringing quality down there, not quantity,” VanSice said. “We’ll go down there, hope for the best, and see what happens. I like our chances with [Wallace and Huff] going in as number one seeds.”
The Bull Run was again the heavyweight of Region B, with 20 of the 28 finalists coming from the district. Besides Wallace and Huff, winning region titles from the Bull Run were Hunter Dean (Strasburg, 106), Nic Campbell (Strasburg, 120), Zac Trueting (Manassas Park, 126), Kent Cadle (Strasburg, 132), Todd Dean (Strasburg, 145), Dylan Hitt (Rappahannock County, 152), Isaiah Baker (Manassas Park, 160), Willie Rutz (Strasburg, 182), and Corey Jenkins (Manassas Park, 220).