Bowyer, Jackson stumble in finals
By Ted Allen
Saturday, March 8, 2008

SALEM - To be the best, you've got to beat the best.

Two area seniors, Jefferson Forest's Chris Bowyer and Brookville's Ryan Jackson, finally met their match in the Group AA state wrestling championship finals Saturday night at the Salem Civic Center.

Bowyer (38-2) bowed to Grafton's Chase Ennis (38-2), the state's top-ranked Group AA 189-pounder, 5-3.

Jackson (10-1), the defending state champion who missed most of the season with a knee injury suffered playing football, lost a 10-1 major decision to Bassett's Andrew Miller (48-0), the state's No. 1-ranked ranked heavyweight.

"Just to be in the state finals is amazing," Brookville coach Don Shuler said of Jackson. "The kid had reconstructive knee surgery and didn't work out for five months. It shows you how much of an athlete he is."

Miller, who beat Jackson at state as a sophomore, led 3-0 after shooting and scoring with 10 seconds left in the first period before escaping to start the second. With both wrestlers on their feet, Miller clamped down on Jackson's upper body before grabbing his injured left knee and recording another takedown for a 5-0 lead.

Miller angered Jackson by driving him into the scorer's table to start the third period, but the Brookville heavyweight didn't have enough energy left to mount a comeback.

In his 189-pound match, Bowyer recorded the first takedown with 15 seconds left in the first period. But he clamped his legs too high on Ennis' torso and the Grafton standout ducked under for a reversal seconds later, tying the score at 2-2.

"The same thing happened later in the match and he capitalized on it again," Bowyer said.

Showcasing his strength, Bowyer picked up Ennis twice as he tried to escape from the bottom in the third period. But Ennis, who will wrestle for ODU next year, wiggled his way for a second reversal with 50 seconds left and held on for a 5-3 final.

"He pretty much controlled the whole match," Bowyer said.

In the team competition, Christiansburg (161.5 points) won its seventh straight state title by again outwrestling Grundy (129.5), its Region IV runner-up. Brookville (56.5) slipped to seventh and Forest finished tied for 15th with 42 points.

JF's Brandon Beemer lost to Brentsville's Nathan Watts 8-5 in the 215-pound championship semifinals. But he beat Robert E. Lee's Josh Canham 15-6 in a rematch of the Region III final and Lafayette's Shawn Sweaney 3-2 in the third-place bout.

He improved on his seventh-place showing last year but wasn't satisfied.

"When you set your goal on the state title and to get beat, it's hard to wrestle back," Beemer said. "Your head's not in it after you lose."

Brookville sophomore Zeb Stewart placed third at 125 pounds with a 7-3 decision over Turner Ashby's Coty Riggleman, the state runner-up at that weight as a junior.

"It was a pretty big deal," Stewart said. "That was no doubt the best match I've wrestled this season."

With a year of state experience under his belt, Stewart wasn't intimidated.

"It was hard coming into this building last year," he said. "It looked so big as a freshmen and I was completely awe-struck. It wasn't as amazing to me this year and my wrestling was better because I wasn't as nervous."

Bees senior Ronnie Guthrie lost to James Wood's Randy Brannon 5-1 in the third-place bout. He fell to the consolation bracket after a 6-5 semifinal loss to Chancellor's Sam MacGregor.

"I should have won that match," Guthrie said. "In the last minute, I put him on his back and didn't have enough time to pin him."

Staunton River's only survivor to Saturday, Will Epperly, reinjured a dislocated left shoulder in the consolation semifinal, but he wrestled through the pain to win two of his three matches for the second straight day. He beat Abingdon's Aaron Wilson 6-2 in the fifth-place bout, a rematch of Friday's second-round loss.

"I was more aggressive today," Epperly said. "I took it to him and put the pressure on him."

Epperly considered defaulting before the final, but his dad, Albert, convinced him to gut it out.

"My dad told me, 'Will, you can go out there and make it a blast or you can quit and go home,'" said Epperly, who finished 40-5 and is hoping to wrestle for Liberty University next year. "It's been an amazing year for me. This was the last match of my senior year, so I had to fight through it."