Five wrestlers competing for state crowns
By Ted Allen
Friday, March 7, 2008

SALEM - With action taking place simultaneously on eight mats for Friday's first day of the Group AA/A state wrestling championships at the Salem Civic Center, it's not always clear who the many factions of fans are cheering for at any given time.
But most of those wrestlers who survived and advanced to the championship and consolation finals maintained a single-minded focus, using the convoluted crowd noise to increase their intensity and get the upper hand on their opponents.

That intensity will pick up today, when five local wrestlers compete in the championship semifinals, starting at 9:30 a.m., and a few others battle through the consolation rounds to follow.

Seven out of the area's 18 Group AA qualifiers won their first-round matches; eight of the 18 were eliminated after losing their first two bouts.

Brookville, which brought eight wrestlers, sent three through to the semis - Zeb Stewart (125 pounds), Ronnie Guthrie (140) and defending state champion heavyweight Ryan Jackson.

Jackson pinned his first opponent, Park View's Edwin Guzman in 4 minutes, 32 seconds, before scoring a 16-1 technical fall of Marion's Justin Fantazier, who was penalized the final point for stalling early in the third period of the quarterfinals.

"It's been quite a while since we've had three in the semifinals," Brookville coach Don Shuler said. "Ronnie (Guthrie) and Zeb (Stewart) wrestled tough matches and Ryan won by technical fall. You don't get many tech falls at heavyweight."

"He was fighting hard off his back and most of the time I caught him on his back at the end of the period and stayed in control," added Jackson, who expects a better challenge when he meets Carroll County's Drew McCraw (41-5) next. "It's states, everyone comes to fight. You give it all you've got or you go home."

Guthrie escaped to take a 1-0 lead on Jimmy Jurado from Heritage-Leesburg in the second period of his quarterfinal. Seconds later, Jurado seized a brief 2-1 lead on a takedown before Guthrie countered with a reversal in the same motion.

"I was real quick about it," he said. "I needed to get it fast because there were only 30 seconds left. I just rolled him. I caught him in a move when he was taking me down and got in a good position to roll him. It was perfect timing."

Stewart improved to 30-5 with a 5-2 decision of Skyline's Trevor Walker in his second match.

"I just wrestled hard," said Stewart, who will meet Chancellor's Chris Smith in today's semifinals. "He's really good. He's long and lanky, like seven feet tall. He's huge. I need to wrestle a full six-minute match, or longer if that's what it takes to win. I'm focused and ready to go."

Jefferson Forest only carried three wrestlers to state, but two of them won their first two matches - Chris Bowyer, who pinned Sherando's Hunter Taylor in 1:11 and Mountain View's Charles Curtis in 3:44 at 189, and Brandon Beemer, who pinned Park View's Elias Barahona in 3:55 and Powhatan's Blake Kierson in 4:26 at 215.

Staunton River had five wrestlers in the field, but only senior 130-pounder Will Epperly has any mat time left, with the other four eliminated after two matches. Epperly (38-4) trailed 2-0 early before escaping in the second period and recording a takedown in the final minute of the third to pull out a 3-2 win over Turner Ashby's Charlie Parkins.

"I kept pressure on him and didn't panic," said Epperly, who would have ended his career with a loss. "I used a shuck low single(-leg takedown) when he was expecting a slide by."

Brookville, which placed sixth with eight wrestlers last winter, stood in fifth place after the first round, trailing six-time defending state champion Christiansburg, Grundy, Poquoson and Millbrook.

"We're highest in our region right now," Shuler said. "We want to go out and win every match and go up as high as we can."

The Bees' Kyle Broda (119) and Nathan Shuler (29-4 at 145) both lost their consolation bouts and were eliminated Friday night.

"He started out on his back, giving up five points, and it's hard to come back from that," Don Shuler said of Nathan after his 9-3 loss to Brentsville's Scott Crane in the quarterfinals. "He fought hard. He didn't quit, he kept going and I'm proud of him for that."