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Fauquier wrestling places 8th at state despite tiny ‘army’

Saturday, Feb. 16 | By Jeff Malmgren
The Fauquier Falcons finished eighth in the Group AA state standings Saturday after winning the Region II championship last weekend. --Photo by Joey LoMonaco
The Fauquier Falcons entered the Group AA state wrestling tournament without one of their lotto numbers.

They won quite a bit anyway.

Fauquier’s numbers were limited to four – entries in the 113-, 126-, 145- and 182-pound weight classes – because 132-pound sophomore Matt Raines sat out of the state tournament after suffering a concussion last weekend at the end of his run to a Region II championship.

Nevertheless, each of the four eligible Falcons earned a state medal by placing in the top eight of a weight class, and they combined to win 12 matches (versus eight losses). As a result, Fauquier placed eighth in the team standings with 57.5 points Saturday at the Salem Civic Center, extending its streak of top-10 finishes at state to seven.

Fauquier placed fifth last season at AA state, fifth in 2010-11 (AA), third in 2009-10 (AA), second in 2008-09 (AA), third in 2007-08 (AAA) and ninth in 2006-07 (AAA). However, Fauquier had nine state entries last season and a school-record 11 in 2011-12 compared to four this weekend.

“You come to war with the army you have, not the army you want,” Falcons coach Doug Fisher said. “The army we have, we did well with. … Having everyone place was huge.”

Christiansburg also extended a streak at the two-day tournament by winning its 12th consecutive team state championship. The Blue Demons scored 158 points, while runner-up Brookville had 92. Elsewhere, Kettle Run placed 46th with five points.

Fauquier placed eighth thanks to a runner-up finish at 182 pounds by senior Max Strum, a third-place finish at 126 by freshman Garrett Tingen, a sixth-place finish at 113 by sophomore Daniel Ariola and an eighth-place finish at 145 by senior Michael Villalobos.

Raines watched it all from the stands.

“They did great,” he said. “We’re a young team and for us to place top 10 in the state with four people here, it’s not bad at all.”

Twenty-nine other teams had at least four wrestlers compete in the state tournament. Brentsville was the only team with fewer than five entries to place higher than Fauquier, finishing fifth with 72.5 points.

Strum’s run to the 182 final helped secure the Falcons’ top 10 team standing and atoned for his disappointing seventh-place state finish last season at 170.

“It’s always kind of been my dream to wrestle in the finals,” he said. “It’s just a really good feeling.”

Unfortunately, in the final, Strum faced Christiansburg’s Zack Epperly, who is ranked as the No. 1 170-pound senior in the nation according to Wrestling USA magazine. Epperly moved up from 170 to the 182 level for the postseason and ended up pinning Strum in 2 minutes, 32 seconds.

Regardless, Strum picked up the 100th win of his career in the semifinals by beating Martinsville’s Alberto Garcia, 4-1.

Tingen locked up his third-place finish at 126 by beating New Kent's Blake Hohman via pin in 4:42 during the consolation finals.

Ariola’s sixth-place finish at 113 came when he lost to Brentsville's Brenden Velez for the third consecutive week, this time 1-0 in the fifth/sixth match. Velez scored his lone point on a penalty for Ariola locking hands.

Villalobos finished eighth at 145 with a 7-0 loss to David Giantonio of Christiansburg in the seventh/eighth match. Nonetheless, earning the first state medal of his career was a highlight, especially after missing about half this season with two different injuries.

Such injuries are nothing new to Fauquier this season. After losing six state-qualifiers to graduation following last season, the Falcons lost three returning starters in 2012-13 – Marvin Ventura to transfer, Marco Tcheukado to a season-ending broken leg and Henry Weber’s to a season-ending torn labrum. Then Raines suffered a concussion last weekend.

“It’s definitely not what I worked all year for,” Raines said of missing the state tournament. “It’s hard. I’d rather be out there wrestling than in the stands watching kids place in my weight class that I know I can beat or I have beat.”

Elsewhere, for Kettle Run, Caleb Yost finished seventh at 126 pounds, becoming the first wrestler in program history to earn a state medal. He went 3-2 over the weekend and beat Chancellor's Mark Weinstock, 6-1, in the seventh/eighth match.

Also for the Cougars, Adam Bresson went 1-2 at 182 pounds, while Collin Kratzer went 0-2 at 132 pounds and Cameron O'Connor went 0-2 at 138.

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