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As high school wrestling nears the postseason, here's where local teams stand

As high school wrestling nears the postseason, here's where local teams stand

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The 2021 high school wrestling season, like many sports amid the pandemic, has been disjointed and abbreviated.

Some local teams, like St. Christopher’s, have been almost entirely dormant this season. Others, like Hanover, Atlee and Mechanicsville, have had abbreviated seasons with exclusively local competition. And still more, like New Kent, Powhatan, Midlothian, Benedictine and Cosby, have put together successful and semi-normal seasons under the circumstances of the pandemic.

With regionals and states around the corner for many teams, here’s a look at where things stand in the local wrestling scene.

Standout wrestlers

Wyatt Mesco, Mechanicsville: A senior 160-pound captain for the Mustangs, Mesco is 6-0 heading into regionals and hoping to place at the state tournament.

Nick Vafiadis, New Kent: The 160-pound junior won a Class 3 state title at 152 pounds last year. He’s 18-0 this time around, and will vie for another state crown.

Dom Baker, New Kent: A junior 182-pounder, Baker is 17-1 and Trojans coach Mike Faus put him right up there with Vafiadis as one of the area’s best.

Brayden Hohman, New Kent: After losing by decision in the 160-pound state final, Hohman is 17-0 wrestling at 170 pounds in his senior season.

Travis Ragland, New Kent: A junior region and state champion and Fargo All-American, Ragland is 17-1 wrestling at 152 this year.

Luke Hart, Hanover: The senior 152-pounder is 4-0 in abbreviated competition and on track to contend for a top finish at regionals.

Aden Halsey, Hanover: A 220-pound senior, Halsey is 6-0 and looking to push for a regional crown.

Sean Hall, Powhatan: A 132-pound team captain, Hall is a three-time Class 4 state place winner (two-time runner up) and is 12-0 this season.

Hayden Fitzsimmons, Powhatan: A 195-pound team captain, Fitzsimmons (15-0) placed fourth at states last season. He plans to join the Coast Guard after college.

Max Moreno, Goochland: “He’s always had a lot of potential, but he’s really put things together this year,” said Bulldogs coach Jeremy Wampler of the 9-0 senior. Moreno will probably wrestle at 145 in the postseason.

Ayden Doczi, Goochland: A 285-pound senior, Doczi is 9-0. Wampler is “very excited to see what he can do” at regionals.

Brenden Barnes, Benedictine: A senior captain for the Cadets, Barnes, a 126-pounder, has fallen just short of making the podium at the National Prep Tournament in years past. He’s headed to the Air Force Academy, and Benedictine coach David Yost said this could be his year to secure a top finish at National Preps, currently scheduled for late April and early May.

Ryan Tremain, Benedictine: Another senior captain, the 170-pound Tremain is a two-time VISAA state champion and reached All-American status last year. Yost expects him to contend for another elite national finish.

Logan Cohn, Benedictine: The third senior captain for the Cadets, the 220-pound Cohn won the VISAA title last year. Yost said he’s come into his own and grown in confidence this year ahead of a potential national medal.

Anthony Schwartz, Midlothian: The 182-pound Trojan finished fifth at states last year and is 10-0 this time around with aspirations of improving on that place.

Crew Gregory, Midlothian: A 152-pound junior, Gregory is a defending regional champion and 10-0 this year.

Malik Williams, Cosby: The 113-pound senior is 14-4 after finishing in the top six in the region last season.

Carter Lilovich, Cosby: A 126-pound senior, Lilovich is 17-2 and could push for state qualification.

Private schools

St. Christopher’s has not been able to compete this year, but they recently started training in a limited fashion. The national prep tournament, which St. Christopher’s and Benedictine each typically sends a handful of wrestlers to, has been rescheduled to the end of April and early May, and relocated. Coach Ross Gitomer said the board is still trying to figure out a venue, and it could be an open tournament.

For the Saints this season, sophomore Jack Parker (106) has been training at a high level, Gitomer said, and projects as a leader for the Saints in the years ahead. Freshman Mitchell Faglioni (126-132) is on track to “surprise a lot of people,” according to Gitomer. Seniors Jake Keeling (132-138), Erik Roggie (126-138) and Kevin-Michael Schork will all be looking to win national prep titles this year if afforded the opportunity. Sophomore Cale Roggie has “turned a corner big time” and could push for a top six finish at national preps. Sophomore Reilly Finck (170) has put on about 40 pounds. Senior Morey Levy could have been in the mix for All-American honors. Junior Josh Powell is wrestling up to 220, and had state champion potential, Gitomer said. And freshman heavyweight Will Parker, a football player, is learning the sport and has tons of potential on the mat.

Benedictine has been able to get about 20 matches in, roughly half a normal season. Barnes, Cohn and Tremain are the ones most likely to make noise at National Preps, and the Cadets will have a modified training schedule for the spring in preparation for the meet. But Benedictine boasts a deep and talented group from top to bottom. Junior 160-pound captain Zane Cox (2X VISAA state champ) has always had talent, but Yost said he’s grown into a leadership position this year. Freshman Bryson Smith (220/heavyweight), a lineman on the football team nicknamed “the mammoth,” has gotten comfortable on the mat and won some great matches, Yost said. Freshman Brycen Arbogast (106) is undefeated this year. Nate Howerton (120) and Jagen Ratlief (182) have both come into their own. Yost said he loves the trajectory of his program, and with the right attitude, he can see his team stepping up to not only be a powerhouse on the state level, but on the national level as well.

Collegiate isn’t competing this year because of the pandemic, but coach Andy Stone said his Cougars have been able to train sans contact with strength and conditioning plus individual drills. Stone is disappointed his seniors — Jenna Raggio (132), Robert Woolwine (145) and Charlie Kolbert (285) — won’t get a chance to put a bow on their high school careers.

Public schools

Two-time defending Class 3 state champion New Kent‘s regular season is over after the Trojans defeated Benedictine in a duals meet last Friday. As in years past they are one of the state’s best, though they lost to a similarly formidable Skyline program earlier in the season. New Kent should get a chance at revenge at the state tournament Feb. 18, where they’ll also meet recent nemesis Christiansburg. Vafiadis, Baker and Hohman at least figure to vie for individual state titles. Daniel Colgin is 17-1 switching between 106 and 113, he’ll wrestle at 106 in the postseason. Coach Mike Faus, who secured his 400th career win earlier in the season, said a third consecutive team state title is the goal.

About half of Mechanicsville‘s 5-1 team are freshmen, and Mesco said he’s tried to be an extension of the coaching staff to help the talented young group develop. The Mustangs have only competed within Hanover County this season. Mesco said he’s seen a lot of the growth in freshmen like Carter Farmer, TJ Conrad and Dominic Bischoff. Sophomores Ryan MaGill (113), Jacob Koenig (120) and Drew Kozubal (132) have been key pieces. Jo (285) and Adam Elaal (220) are second-year wrestlers who both play football, and have had productive years after Mesco and the rest of the team talked them into wrestling. Mesco hopes a handful of Mustangs can qualify for the state tournament.

Cosby finished its regular season 14-4, and the Titans will host the Class 6, Region A tournament Feb. 13. Seniors Williams, Lilovich and Kyree Burch (132, 16-3) lead the charge. All three finished in the top six in the region last year, and will hope to qualify for the state tournament this time around. Senior Ethen Murphy (285) finished second at regionals last year, and fell one match short of a top-6 state finish. Freshman Elijah Cramer (106, 15-0) has had an impressive debut season and figures to be a threat at regionals.

In coach Chad Hall’s 20th year at the helm, Dinwiddie is 9-6. Senior Oscar Cunningham (170) is 13-2, he was third in the region last year and has been rolling since a couple early losses. Junior Ben Pfister (220) is 13-2 as well, Hall said he’s been trying to establish more consistency and wrestle for a full five minutes instead of always looking for a pin. Senior heavyweight William Simmons is 12-3, he’s had some very close losses in tough matchups in a hotly contested weight class. Junior Ayden Nunnally (160, 8-2) and sophomore Quentin Mankin (138) will be looking to make some noise at regionals. Hall said the Generals hope to advance a handful of wrestlers to the state tournament at Saturday’s regional meet.

Atlee has had six duals against fellow Hanover County schools. Alex Frowert (145) and Liam Harris (138) missed the last four matches of the season, but they’ll be back for regionals, said head coach Gabe LaVey. James Haynie is a returning regional champion, he’s undefeated this season. Hayden Morris (170) is undefeated as well, as is Daniel Martinez (182), he’s pinned just about everybody. Many Raiders have only wrestled three or four matches due to forfeits, and LaVey said he expects his team to qualify about eight wrestlers four states, and four or five of those have regional title aspirations.

First-year coach Wampler’s Goochland team features Moreno and Doczi, and has established a new identity after graduating a big senior class. Sophomore Riley Hite, a 160-pounder who’s been wrestling at 170, is 7-2. Wampler said Hite excels at positioning and hip pressure as a top wrestler. Sophomore John Summitt has been wrestling at 132, he’s 7-2 as well and leans on plus athleticism. Sophomore Reese Vincent is 5-3, he went to the state tournament last year and has progressed a lot at working inside to set up his offense.

This season could be labeled “adversity” for a young and inexperienced L.C. Bird team, said coach Marvin McKinney. But the Skyhawks have shown great growth on and off the mat, McKinney said.

Hanover has gone to six meets this season, two competitions against each county school. The Hawks are made up of almost entirely seniors and freshmen, and coach Jason Smith said, in addition to Halsey and Hart, senior heavyweight Simon Siler (4-0) and sophomore 195-pounder Jacob Epperly (4-1) have wrestled well and provided leadership. Two freshmen — Robert Owens Jr. (120) and Noah Bentley (126) — joined those four in qualifying for regionals. Smith said junior Zach Crowder (160) has been his program’s most improved wrestler.

Schwartz is Midlothian‘s only senior this season, and the 8-2 Trojans lean on a heavy junior class that includes Gregory, Chris Lilly (120, 6-0) who finished second at regionals last year, and Robbie Painter (152, 8-0). Coach Christopher Burks said all four of those upperclassmen have state-level aspirations in this year’s postseason, as does Ashby Berry, a 170-pound sophomore who finished fourth at states last year and is 10-0. A handful of freshmen have stepped up as well, including Knox Berry (126, 8-2) and Ronin Foldes (138, 8-2).

Powhatan is led by a deep and dominant senior class that includes Hall, Fitzsimmons, Dylan Coward (13-2), Gavin Timmons (14-1), AJ Gaskin (13-2), Linwood Hill (9-1), and Tanner Palmore (13-2). Eighth-year coach Jonathan Tanaka led the Indians to a 15-0 regular season mark and their first ever Dominion District championship. Hall is set to wrestle for Roanoke College next season, while Gaskin will wrestle for Ferrum College and Hill plans to compete at Averett University.

ZJoachim@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6555

Twitter: @ZachJoachim

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