RUSTBURG – Roger Graham will be headed to the Group 3A wrestling state championship next weekend following Saturday’s completion of the two-day Group 3A West regional tournament at Rustburg High School.
Graham followed up his Conference 29, 145-pound title last weekend with a fourth-place finish Saturday.
“Roger’s worked really hard this last year,” Waynesboro coach Rick Palmer said. “Last year he didn’t even qualify to go to the regional tournament.”
Palmer said Graham improved pretty much everything, including his shooting, take downs and ground work.
“He’s become a more well-rounded wrestler,” Palmer said. “He trained his butt off.”
After losing in the quarterfinals, Graham, just a sophomore, had to fight back through the consolation bracket. He did so with three consecutive wins, pinning Brookville’s Kyle Kohinke in 1:40 and getting decisions over Tunstall’s Stone Norton (6-2) and William Byrd’s Noah Harrilla (4-1).
“The guys he had to beat were all state-ranked kids,” Palmer said. “He was kind of an underdog all the way through, but Roger has nerves of steel.”
The win over Harrilla placed Graham in the third-place match, where he came up just short against Northside’s Brandon Siner, losing a 2-1 decision.
“The guy got a take down on Roger and got his two points,” Palmer said. “Roger had several clean shots, but just couldn’t finish them. Roger was really the aggressor in the match.”
Still, the fourth-place finish earned Graham a trip to Salem next weekend for the state championship, which, according to his coach, will be a great learning experience for the young wrestler.
Christiansburg won the Group 3A West team title with 2951/2 points and six individual champions. Cave Spring finished second with 146 points and Staunton River claimed third with 1381/2 points.
Locally, Waynesboro finished 16th with 34 points, Fort Defiance was 21st with 28 points and Stuarts Draft was 24th with 12 points.
Two other local wrestlers also placed at the regional event.
Fort Defiance’s Corey Colvin began his tournament by pinning Tunstall’s David Manning, but then fell in the quarterfinal match.
Colvin won his next two bouts, taking out Lord Botetourt’s Clayton Gilkeson with a pin at 2:06 and a pin of Blacksburg’s Caspian Driscoll in 4:43.
In the consolation semifinals, Staunton River’s Quannie Blake pinned Colvin, but the Fort wrestler bounced back to claim fifth with a 1-0 decision over Jordan Bennett of William Byrd.
It was a case of sweet revenge for Colvin, who had lost to Bennett in the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Graham’s Waynesboro teammate, Nerio Teran, grabbed a sixth-place finish in the 113-pound bracket.
Teran got a major decision victory in his first match, advancing to the quarterfinals. He lost that match, but won the next two — pinnning Tunstall’s Matthew Howell and Rustburg’s Carter Smith — before falling to Turner Ashby’s Jason Powers, who pinned the Waynesboro wrestler in 2:57 with a berth in the state tournament on the line.
That put Teran in the fifth-place match, where he lost 7-6 to Northside’s Cody Shelton.
“[Teran] worked hard,” Palmer said. “I hate to make excuses for people, but he had a sore rib. He did pretty well for not being fully functional.”
Two other Conference 29 wrestlers, both from Fort, didn’t fare as well as they had hoped.
Jordan Brooks won just one of his three matches, beating Heritage-Lynchburg’s Kentaz Burks 6-3 in the first round of the 220 consolation bracket. Brooks then lost his next match, ending his day when Magna Vista’s Tyrique Nolen pinned him in 3:35.
In the 285-pound bracket, Fort’s Christian Sanchez advanced into the quarterfinals when he pinned Northside’s Darren Shrewsbury in his first match, but then lost and fell into the consolation bracket.
He got off to a good start in the consolation round, beating Brookville’s Aaron Putz with a 5-2 decision, but fell to Blacksburg’s Jake Davis when he was pinned at the 3:37 mark.
Fort also had two other wrestlers, Tyler Allen (120) and Alex Diehl (170), who came up short in their brackets.
In addition to Graham and Teran, Waynesboro brought six other wrestlers to the regional match — Justice Allen (106), Isaac Gunter (120), Rene Teran (132), Camden Jarvis (138), Colin Cook (160) and Wesley Seay (170) — but none made it past the second-round of the consolations.
The only senior on the team is Jarvis.
“It looks really good for the future,” Palmer said.
Stuarts Draft was also represented by five wrestlers, but all came up short in the consolation rounds. Sanders O’Shea (126), Brandon Brubaker (132), Noah Norman (182), Jonathan Snell (195) and Brandon Meadows (220) wrestled for the Cougars this weekend.
“I thought our guys worked hard and fought well,” Draft coach Abe Mikell said. “We only lose one senior, so I expect this season to be a springboard for a lot of guys as we go down to (Group) 2A next year.”