By ROB WITHAM
Looking to build on a fourth place finish at the state level a season ago, Lee-Davis led the way in an impressive opening weekend performance for Hanover County teams as the 2017-18 wrestling season began in earnest over the weekend at the Central Virginia Classic at Glen Allen High School.
Jonathon Conrad, Fisher Evans, Andy Aldridge, and Ned Anthony each won championships in their weight classifications. Conrad bested Josh Epperly of Hanover 6-2 at 145 pounds, while Evans pinned Trevor Parker of Clover Hill at 4:53 for the 152 pound title.
Aldridge knocked off Xever Lemieux of Millbrook by major decision at 14-5 for the 170 pound crown, while Ned Anthony took the 195 pound title by fall in just 1:09 over Emanuel Torres of Hermitage. Aldridge is a defending state champion, while Conrad, Evans and Anthony all placed at the former 5A State Tournament back in February.
Head Coach Craig Spruill is also high on newcomer Dylan Montgomery, who finished third in his first tournament for Lee-Davis at 160 pounds, besting Luke Nees of Grassfield 8-1 in the final round. Junior Noah Loving will contribute at 132 pounds after a second place finish on Saturday.
Right behind Lee-Davis in the Central Virginia Classic standings were the Atlee Raiders. Longtime county rivals will battle against each other all season long, and both, in Class 5, Region B, will be fighting for championships at every level come February.
Evan Buchanan returns for the Raiders, starting with a championship at 120 pounds at Glen Allen, winning by major decision over Christian Schumaker of Grassfield 21-7. Robbie Adelstein translated his success on the football field back onto the mat, taking second overall at 285 pounds, going to overtime in the title bout before falling to Tavon Blowe of Millbrook.
Other top wrestlers for Atlee include James Haynie, a third place finisher at 106 pounds this past weekend, defeating Lee-Davis freshman Austin Montgomery for third place by major decision at 15-5, and senior Stephen Call, who finished third at 170 pounds, pinning Jake Liberatore of Douglas Freeman at 3:49.
It was also a good start for Hanover, taking sixth place overall in team competition at Glen Allen. With nine returning starters and seven newcomers, head coach Larry Allen is working to return the Hawks to their dominance of earlier this decade, when Hanover was constantly a state championship threat. In Region 4B, Hanover should contend, but not without serious obstacles.
“Two huge holes to fill will be the loss of seniors David Hoover and Carson Allen to season-ending shoulder injuries,” Allen told the Herald Progress. “With Hoover being a defending state champion and Allen a third-place finisher from last year, that will certainly be a lot of team points lost throughout the season. I am going to need the rest of our guys to step up in a big way to fill that void.”
Freshman Kole Kienzle began his career at Hanover with a sixth place finish at 106 pounds at the Central Virginia Classic. Junior Jeremiah Hunsaker also placed sixth at 113, while fellow junior Jordan Smith earned second place honors at 126, falling to Trey White of Glen Allen on his home mat in the finals.
Tristan Halsey of Hanover took third overall at 138 with an 11-2 win over Caden Plummer of Lee-Davis,while Josh Epperly, a sophomore taking over for Hoover at 145, also took second place honors at Glen Allen. Senior Aaron Huffman (152) and sophomore Elijah Hunter (170) will need big seasons for the Hawks.
Patrick Henry began their season at the Henrico Invitational last Saturday. Second year head coach Mike Arnold is looking at several prospects while welcoming back seven starters from last season. Hannah Forsythe, Luis Sagal and Brendan White are graduated, but Arnold has high hopes for his team captains.
“We need…strong leadership from our captains, and are looking for some impact wrestlers like we had last year with our five seniors,” Arnold explained.” We have a lot of younger wrestlers that will take their bumps along the way but, overall, I think this team will be on to watch as the season goes on.”
The Patriots are now in Region 4B along with Hanover, a new era for Patrick Henry come tournament time in February. Arnold sees Jack Fox as a “huge threat” this season at 145 pounds, hoping for a regional crown and a deep state run for the sophomore.
“Jack reminds me of a combination of Brendan White and Luis Sagal,” Arnold said.
Junior Chad Berger will compete at 195 and is called a “great leader” by his coach, motivated by a season cut short due to injury last year. Nolan Rohr, at 138 pounds, is the Patriots’ lone four-year starter, described as a very quiet leader, but very effective.
Helping Arnold with the returnees and the fourteen newcomers to the Patriots is new assistant coach Jeremy Smith, who brings a different perspective to the squad.
“If I could say that I am ‘old school’, then Jeremy is ‘new school’,” Arnold opined. “He’s really taken much of the stress off my shoulders this year so that I can make sure the team is developing the correct way and see the big picture.”
The Patriots return to action at an invitational at Monticello High School near Charlottesville Friday. Wrestling fans can mark December 15th and 16th on their calendars, as all four county teams are expected to compete at the Lee-Davis Invitational in Mechanicsville.