Despite a great effort last weekend by Westfield High to defend its status as Northern Region wrestling champion, the Bulldogs fell a little short at the annual postseason championship event, which took place at Fairfax High School Feb. 11-12.
Robinson Secondary, last year’s region runner-up, captured Saturday’s region title - its first region crown since 1991. The Rams finished with 260.50 points, finishing ahead of second place Westfield (208). South County (118) finished third place, while Annandale (92) and Hayfield (78) finished fourth and fifth places, respectively. Finishing sixth through 10th place were Lee High (69), Mount Vernon (65), Edison (62), Langley (58) and Lake Braddock (54.50).
Chantilly (44 points) and Centreville (41) finished 15th and 18th place, respectively, at the 30-team event.
Robinson’s Jack Bass, the 125-weight class champion, was named the region tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Centreville accepted the Sportsmanship Award trophy during brief post meet ceremonies on Saturday night.
Two weeks ago, Westfield started the postseason off by taking first place at the Concorde District championships, edging the runner-up Rams, who tallied 219 points to Westfield’s 225.5.
But at regionals, Robinson simply put it all together as nine Rams reached the finals of their respective weight brackets, with seven capturing titles.
“Our team has always been strong and we have a good rival with Westfield,” said Robinson wrestler Jake Smith, who captured the 119-division title. “But winning the region really means nothing. We have our eyes on states. That’s really all that matters. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t win the state title.”
Robinson will host this weekend’s Virginia State AAA championships, set for Friday and Saturday. The Rams have as good a shot as anyone of winning their first state crown since 1985. The team is coached by Bryan Hazard, a member of the Rams’ 1991 region title team who is completing his 15th year as the program’s head coach.
“I think we have a team that can perform [exceptional] at the next level,” said Hazard, whose squad will have 11 wrestlers competing at states. “But we have to do it. We need some heroes.”
Four Westfield High wrestlers reached championship finals matches at regionals, with one – Beau Donahue at 140 weight class – coming away with a title.
Beau (56-3), a two-time Concorde District champion and a region runner-up last year, defeated Madison High’s Albert Schultz (40-7) by decision, 7-2, to garner the 140 crown.
The finals match win was Donahue’s 100th career varsity victory.
“All the way through the season, getting the 100th victory was a goal of mine,” said Donahue, who was encouraged by coaches and teammates on his quest to attain the century mark in wins.
Nearly midway through the first period of the championship match, Donahue earned a two-point standing takedown to take a 2-0 lead.
Schultz, this year’s Liberty District champion, earned an escape point. But in the final seconds of the opening period, Donahue earned another takedown for a 4-1 lead. His lead increased to 5-1 late in the second period before Schultz appeared to get a two-point takedown in the closing seconds of the period. But following a brief officials’ conference, the points were taken away from Schultz and he still was down 5-1. He closed within 5-2 with an escape point with 20 seconds remaining in the third and final period before Donahue scored in the final seconds to secure the win.
“I started off a little strong but got a little tired going through the match,” said Donahue, of the hard-fought match.
Donahue reached the finals with wins over West Springfield’s Idress Yousafzai (second period pin), Langley’s Will Baird (second period pin), and South County’s Brett Stein (12-4 major decision).
Donahue is now looking forward to states.
“Every match at states is going to be tough all the way through,” he said.
<b>THREE WESTFIELD WRESTLERS</b> - Tyler DeLeon (heavyweight), Jacob DeLeon (215), and Brett Campbell (112) - made it to the finals before losing and finishing with second place finishes.
Tyler DeLeon (35-11), the defending region champion, lost a 3-2 match in the finals to Robinson’s Jake Pinkston (30-11), who broke a 2-2 tie with an escape point early in the final period.
DeLeon had reached the finals with wins over Hayfield’s Chris Mulligan (third period pin), Fairfax’s Kevin Karsner, 4-0, and South County’s Josh Ash, 5-3, in the semifinals.
At 215 weight class, junior Jacob DeLeon (50-10), the Concorde District champion, fell to Fairfax High senior Joe Vanderplas by a third period pin. DeLeon trailed just 2-1 after two periods. Within the final minute of the third period, Vanderplas, ahead 3-1, earned a two-point takedown with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining and went on to get the pin with 45 seconds left.
DeLeon had reached the finals with wins over Mount Vernon’s Jawan Dawkins (forfeit), Langley’s Tate Dulany, 6-0, and Hayfield’s David Cox, 3-0, in the semifinals.
Westfield’s Campbell lost a tough 5-2 decision to Robinson’s Dallas Smith in the 112 finals. The match was scoreless after one period before Campbell, with 40 seconds remaining in the second period, earned two points at the edge of the mat with a reversal to go ahead 2-0. But early in the third period, Smith turned his opponent over and earned five points to take control of the match and ultimately earn the win. It was the second straight region crown for Smith (30-5), who a year ago reached the state finals.
Two weeks ago in the Concorde District finals, Smith lost to Campbell, 4-1.
Campbell, who finished sixth at states last year, reached the region finals with wins over Fairfax’s Donald Knowlan (first period pin), T.C. Williams’ Ibrahim Banduka (13-3 major decision), and Stone Bridge’s Garrett Maged, 7-1.
Westfield had four wrestlers earn third place finishes – Harry VanTrees (152), Nick Lehman (145), Derek Arnold (125), and David Aiello (103).
Van Trees won 152 division matches over Annandale’s Allan Cabrera (first period pin) and Hayfield’s Brennan Reeder (injury default) before losing 10-8 to eventual champion Konbeh Koroma of Lee. But Van Trees defeated Oakton’s Matt Norterangelo (13-5 major decision) and then defeated Langley’s Matt Wilson, 8-2, in the consolation finals to gain third place.
Lehman, at 145, won decisions over both Mike Wickoff of Lee, 3-0, and Wakefield’s Victor Leavell, 3-2. He then lost to eventual champion and unbeaten Ryan Forrest of South Lakes in the semifinals, 6-0. Lehman bounced back strong with loser’s bracket wins over South County’s Tyler Howard, 5-3 in overtime, and Stone Bridge’s Pat Taylor, 5-0, to gain third place.
The Bulldogs’ Arnold garnered third place at the 125 weight class. He beat Madison’s Connor Eckhardt (17-2 technical fall) in a first round match, then fell to Hayfield’s Sahid Kargbo, 5-2. But Arnold came roaring back through the loser’s bracket with four straight wins, including a 5-0 consolation finals match victory over Yorktown’s Danilo Downing to finish third.
David Aiello, at 103, won matches over Langley’s Louis Ives, 6-2, and Wakefield’s Henry Vasquez (second period pin) before falling into the loser’s bracket with a loss to South County’s Hunter Manley, 8-2. Aiello then defeated Eriq Dahlum of Mount Vernon and West Potomac’s Ian Thompson, both by 5-0 scores, to secure third place.
Westfield’s Stephen Aiello, meanwhile, finished in fourth place at 130 weight class to earn a state seeding for this weekend.
<b>CHANTILLY HIGH’S</b> Bernabe Mejia earned a third place finish at 171 weight class. The top seed going into regionals, Mejia (34-9), a senior, won matches over Edison’s Shane Otterstedt (21-6 technical fall) and Lee’s Kevin Parada, 5-2. But a tough 5-4 loss to Mount Vernon’s Dusty Floyd ended Mejia’s title hopes. Still, he came back strong, winning loser’s bracket matches over Robinson’s Tim Fitzpatrick, 7-5 in overtime, and Parada, 7-4, in the match for third place.
“I could have done some things differently in the semifinals,” said Mejia, of the loss to Mount Vernon’s Floyd, who won the title. “I felt I wrestled great in the semifinals but made some small mistakes. It was a tough tournament.”
Mejia, who earned a fifth place region finish last year, said being the top seed for this year’s tournament did not really add extra pressure.
“I didn’t worry about it too much,” said Mejia, who will be competing at states this week.
Mejia, who never wrestled prior to high school, is looking forward to states this weekend.
“Wrestling at Chantilly has been a great experience,” said Mejia, who would like to one day work in law enforcement and also coach wrestling. “The season has gone great and I have some things to improve on for next week.”
<b>FROM CENTREVILLE HIGH</b>, Ryan Sepulveda finished in third place at 160 weight class. He won his first round match over Yorktown’s Alex Grove, 6-3, but then lost to South County’s Christian Merino, 9-8. But he won four straight loser’s bracket matches – wins over Jefferson’s Will Pyrak (12-2 major decision), McLean’s Paval Hovhannisyan, 10-5, Hayfield’s Chris Stone (10-1 major decision), and T.C. Williams’ Marvin Gomez (default win) in the match for third place.
Local wrestlers to earn medals for finishing in the top six were: Centreville’s David Chevevey (fifth place at 189), Westfield’s Frank Aiello (fifth at 135), Westfield’s Dennan Carranza-Kee (fifth at 119), and Chantilly’s Wes Litton (sixth at 130).