GREENVILLE – A field of 14 teams, including eight from area schools, clash Saturday in the 27th annual News Leader Wrestling Tournament at Riverheads High School.
Buffalo Gap, Fort Defiance, Grace Christian, Wilson Memorial, Stuarts Draft, Robert E. Lee, Fishburne Military School and the host Gladiators are the local teams at the tournament.
Joining the field are Covington, Fork Union, James River, Madison County, Parry McCluer and Stonewall Jackson.
The only local school not in the tournament is Waynesboro, which will be competing in the Magna Vista invitational.
Wrestling, which will be on three mats, begins at 10 a.m. The winners’ bracket semifinals will be around 1 p.m. and the championships at approximately 5 p.m.
Riverheads is the defending champion, having edged Parry McCluer 175-164 last year. Fork Union was third, followed by Wilson and Lee.
Riverheads coach Scott Swats would like to see his team repeat as tournament champions.
“We have a shot,” he said. “It should be a very competitive tournament. There are good wrestlers on every team.
“There should be a full 16 man bracket all the way through,” he added. “Most of the teams have extras.”
In winning the title last year, the Gladiators had three consecutive victories in the middle weights by Dylan Wade, Austin Smiley and Cole Smiley. All three were seniors, and won’t be a factor this year.
In fact, of the 14 individual champions, nine were seniors.
Undergraduate winners who are eligible to defend their titles are Parry McCluer’s Jarrod Clark (103), Grace Christian’s Jonathan Zodhiates (113), Fort Defiance’s Tyler Allen (120), Lee’s Alex Williams (126) and Madison County’s Gabe Farmer (182).
Even if returning, many of those wrestlers have moved up weight classes.
For example, Clark has been wrestling at 103 or 113, while both Allen and Williams have already moved up a weight class or two, having met in an early December match at 132 pounds.
With several wrestlers not returning, the only runner-up from local teams who is back is Lee’s Banner Robson who was second at 132 pounds.
Local wrestlers who took third place and are returning are Wilson’s Ben Garst (103), Riverheads’ Westley Swinson (132), Fort’s Corey Colvin (152), Wilson’s Brooks Holmes (170) and Brad Thomas (195), Grace Christian’s Nathaniel Grow (220) and Lee’s Kyler Pulliam (Heavyweight). In some cases, these wrestlers might not be in the same weight class as last year.
This is the 27th year The News Leader has sponsored the tournament, which began in the winter of 1989.