Front Royal youth wrestlers capitalize on Cage Stage

On Saturday, April 15th at Lord Fairfax Community College, several area youth wrestlers performed at intermission during a MMA fighting event.

The young grapplers wrestled in the steel cage as a three-man team in an unusual tag team, relay match.

Walker Wrestling took on 84 Athletes in the entertaining match that was held in front of a sellout crowd of 500.

“I am very happy with the first ever relay match,” said Walker, who wrestled and graduated from Warren County High School. “We had a couple of bumps in the road, but nothing that was detrimental to the show.”

The Walker Wrestling team consisted of Isaiah Frame (Warren County), Tyler Koerner (Sherando), and Simon Bishop (Handley). The 84 Athletes squad was represented by Daniel Heath (Clarke County), Cannon Long (Handley), and Keegan Judd (Sherando).

In between the seven MMA fights, the Walker Wrestling team knocked off 84 Athletes 41-14.

The rules for the match were not what you would see at your typical high school wrestling match. There were three 3-minute periods that featured a fresh wrestler from each team each period.

The grapplers wrestled modified folk style with the exception of no pins or no technical falls.

After a takedown, the top wrestler had five seconds to turn his opponent, or the grapplers went back to their feet with no escape point awarded.

The cage was also a factor and an unusual feature. Instead of the circular wrestling mat, the cage was also a legal part of the surface and came into play frequently during the match.

“The cage played a big part for both teams,” Walker said, “with many of the takedowns being awarded on the cage.”

In the 78-pound round one Koerner took on Long and gave Walker Wrestling an early 14-4 lead with three takedowns with back points.

In 90-pounds round two, Bishop extended Walker Wrestling’s lead to 37-6 with six takedowns against Heath and a throw off the cage.

“We had been practicing that move for weeks,” Walker said. “That made the crowd erupt. It was definitely one of the highlights of the night.”

Round three (81-pounds) featured Frame against Judd in what Walker dubbed the most highly anticipated match-up of the bout.

Judd controlled the pace and managed to score four takedowns to two by Frame for an 8-4 advantage, but it wasn’t enough for 84 Athletes to overcome the big lead that Walker Wrestling had established.

All six of the young wrestlers are in the fifth and sixth grade.

“The wrestlers had about 110 people there in support of them,” Walker said. “It was definitely awesome to see the support from the wrestling community and the other 390 people left knowing what the young wrestlers in the valley are capable of. They may be kids, but all six are very high level athletes and we showed everyone that this weekend.”

The young wrestlers all agreed that the match was a thrilling experience.

“It was a fun experience, something different, and I had a good time,” Frame said. “I was glad to be a part of it. It was a great show and I hope to do it again some time in the near future. It helps the sport of youth wrestling.”

“I thought it was cool having MMA fighters watching us and cheering us on,” Koerner said. “I like the fact that being locked in a cage. It was like there was no where to run.”

“It was a fun way to challenge myself,” Bishop said. “I hope to do it again.”

Walker wanted to thank MMA promoter Jim Stuart for giving the young wrestlers a spot in the event and the sponsors 1-Forty-1 Speed Cycles and Tried and True Tattoo, as well as 84 Athletes for accepting the match and referee Brian Scott - an assistant coach at Skyline High.

“It was really an awesome experience for the kids and neat to part of it,” said Scott, who was a state champion wrestler at James Wood High School. “Both teams were extremely well coached and brought a high level of intensity and excitement to the event.”

Walker said it was nice to win the match, but it was the event itself and the kids that were the real winners.

“Our team showed up with a game plan and the three boys executed almost to a T,” Walker said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them, to show the courage while locked in the cage with the lights, cameras and 500 people. To still focus and execute was amazing.”

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