Sherando wrestlers win Conference 21 crown

Posted: February 10, 2014

Sherando’s Tyler Hamilton (front) won the 220-pound title, winning by fall in 1 minute, 38 seconds over James Wood’s Adam Vadell at Saturday’s Conference 21 Tournament at Sherando.
Sherando senior Jacob Guthridge closes in on a pin against Loudoun County’s Adam Pusterla in the 132-pound final. Guthridge pinned Pusterla in 2 minutes, 43 seconds to join teammates P. K. Jessen and Tyler Hamilton as individual champions.

STEPHENS CITY — Saturday wasn’t perfect for the Sherando wrestling team, but the Warriors have showed they don’t always have to be to get the job done.

Sherando won the inaugural Conference 21 Wrestling Tournament by 34 points at its own gym to continue a stellar season that already includes five tournament championships, the Northwestern District regular season title, and a 31-3 record, which includes a 7-0 mark in last week’s Conference 21 Duals at Woodgrove.

Saturday’s title in the eight-team tournament also gave Sherando coach Pepper Martin his 450th career win (individual bracket tournament titles are equal to one dual win). But the Warriors will start celebrating a lot more if they win can get Martin win No. 451 (the 4A North Region title) and No. 452 (the Group 4A state title).

“We felt really confident coming in,” said Sherando 132-pound senior Jacob Guthridge (37-3), one of three Warriors who won individual titles Saturday. “We had a few matches that we should have done better in, and with eight in the finals, I think maybe we should have had more champions, and also we had guys missing out on making the finals by a few points here or there.

“But as a team we did what we needed to do and took home the team trophy. It’s pretty awesome not to just win individually, but it feels really good to give [Martin] his 450th win. We’re doing phenomenal as a team this season, and hopefully we’ll be able to stay hungry like we are now and take it to regionals and states.”

The Warriors placed 13 wrestlers in the top four, which means all but one of their wrestlers will compete in the 4A North Region Tournament next Friday and Saturday at Eastern View High School.

That’s two more qualifiers than the team that will bring the second most, Woodgrove, which finished second with 209 points. James Wood (eight qualifiers, including champions Aaron Black at 106 and Jimmy Woznak, who gutted out a triple overtime rideout 1-0 win in the final at 138) was third with 178 points, and Millbrook (seven, including champions Ryan Meushaw at 113, Trae Sine at 120 and Dylan Wisman at 182) was fourth with 136 points.

Other local champions Saturday for Sherando were senior P.K. Jessen (39-1), who did not have to take the mat in winning the 170-pound final by forfeit over Loudoun County’s Mitchell Stevens, and Sherando senior Tyler Hamilton (26-1), who beat James Wood’s Adam Vadell by fall in 1:38 in the 220 final. Guthridge won by fall in 2:43 over Loudoun County’s Adam Pusterla.

Martin’s assessment was similar to Guthridge’s as far as the overall performance. And there was one area in which both said Sherando probably couldn’t have been better — forcing the ref to slam his hand to the mat.

Sherando was able to take control early in Saturday by recording 13 pins out of 18 contested matches in the first two rounds, and the Warriors finished with a tournament-high 20 pins. Only Woodgrove (19) came within nine of that total.

Guthridge, Hamilton and Jessen had eight of a possible nine pins — only Jessen’s forfeit win in the final prevented the trio from having a perfect sweep.

“Bonus points count, and that was a really big thing for us getting all those pins in the first and second round,” Guthridge said. “That really gets you up on the board.”

Martin said the Warriors definitely set themselves up well after earning top-three seeds in 11 of 14 weight classes last week at Woodgrove, and their depth played a big role in the team championship.

“We had to come out here today and step it up a notch,” Martin said. “For the most part, we finished about what our seeds were last week. ... We’re proud of our champions. We’d like to have had at least four, but we got three, and we’re advancing 13 to the regionals, and we were hoping to take at least 12.”

The other 10 wrestlers Sherando will take to the regional tournament are Mike Duffy (second at 106), Curtis Guthridge (second at 113), Jordan Dalton (second at 145), John Borst (second at 152), Chris Morgan (second at 195), Colton Simmons (third at 138), Killian McPartland (third at 182), Ben Avery (third at 285) Anthony Damico (fourth at 120) and Andrew Hamilton (fourth at 126).

“It’s going to be quite a battle [next week],” said Martin, whose team will compete with two teams in Eastern View (third) and Fauquier (eighth) that both placed in the top 10 in the old Group AA state tournament last year.

After placing fifth at last week’s conference duals, James Wood coach Greg Walker said he couldn’t have been more pleased with how his team responded this week.

“The kids wrestled well,” Walker said. “They finally started to compete and wrestle the way the way they’re supposed to. You go from fifth place last week to third ... we scored a lot of points, and that’s awesome.

“They felt the success, and I had a couple of them say ‘I can’t wait for this week of practice, because I want to work.’ That’s awesome.”

The freshman Black (37-1) continued a fairly awesome season, earning a 9-1 win over Duffy in the final.

For Black — whose only loss this year came in the Bellefonte (Pa.) Red Raider Invitational — success is nothing new. His youth wrestling accomplishments include winning the War at the Shore in New Jersey and the Ohio Tournament of Champions five times each, as well as taking second three times at the Tulsa Nationals in Oklahoma.

“I’ve been wrestling well on my feet this year,” said Black, who missed a few weeks in midseason with a pulled muscle in his back but hasn’t had any issues since. “Once I get that first takedown, it sets my tone for the whole match.”

Black needed just 10 seconds to take down Duffy. His teammate Woznak (33-4) was unable to match that total in eight minutes and 30 seconds of wrestling action, but he nevertheless earned a 1-0 win against Loudoun County’s Luke Rivera.

Woznak was able to choose the top position after the first two sessions of overtime yielded no points — Rivera barely managed to hold on to Woznak’s foot in the final 10 seconds of the first double overtime session to prevent an escape. And while Rivera nearly spun out toward the end of triple overtime, Woznak was able to wrap his arms around Rivera’s back and chest to hold on for the rideout and a 1-0 win.

“Both of them were cautious, but I think next week will be a different story,” Walker said. “I told Jimmy I want him to win, but I told him I also want to open it up and go after it a little bit.”

James Wood will also send Vadell, Matt Surber (second at 126), Ryan Funkhouser (second at 160), Dan Funkhouser (second at 182), Caleb Arce (third at 120), and William Gregory (fourth at 132) to regionals.

For Millbrook, Meushaw (33-8) earned a 6-1 win over Curtis Guthridge in the 113 final, Trae Sine (29-5) earned a 7-3 win over Loudoun County’s Andrew Moreno in the 120 final, and Wisman (41-2) pinned Dan Funkhouser in 1:11 to win the 182 final.

Wisman’s quick work of opponents continued Saturday, as he pinned all three in the first period to give him 35 this year, the most in Winchester-Frederick County.

“I’m definitely glad with the way I performed,” Wisman said. “I’ve just got to take it one match at a time, because I can’t overlook anyone.”

Millbrook coach Jeff Holmes said he was satisfied with how the team performed.

“All of our guys were wrestling really tough,” Holmes said. “For a young team, to be able to get seven through out of 11, I’m pleased.

“Meus, Trae and Wisman, those are our horses. They’re used to being in the finals this whole year and we ride ’em. They’re tough kids and good competitors. I’m pleased with their effort and outcome.”

Millbrook will also advance Corey Gloyd (third at 126), Devon Sharp (third at 170), Gabe Neaverth (fourth at 160) and Joe Tanner (fourth at 185) to regionals.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at  rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1