WRESTLING: Interesting battles shape 3A state tourney

SALEM — The 3A state wresting tournament this Friday and Saturday at the Salem Civic Center is shaping up to be an interesting battle for individual state championships, and to see if any team can prevent Christiansburg from claiming a 15th straight state championship.

A total of 11 defending state champions will be in the field this weekend with many intriguing match-ups.

In two weight classes (138 & 160), defending state champions could likely square off in the finals, and the 182-pound possible finale could also be a doozy.

Warren County senior Zach Beckner, the defending 113-pound state champion, is expected to cruise to the finals where he will likely meet 2015 126-pound third-place finisher Sam Ring.

Ring (36-3) of Cave Spring is fresh off winning the 3A West Regional, while Beckner claimed his third consecutive 3A East Region championship.

"I'm just going to keep attacking and not worry about anyone else's credentials or what school they are from," said Beckner, who will open up against Christiansburg junior Daniel Hoge in the quarterfinals. "I going to give it my all - hello Salem here I come from Warren County."

Josh Baier of Cave Spring, the defending 138-pound champ, will likely face Christiansburg Marshall Keller in the 138 final. Keller is the defending champ at 120 and defeated Baier 3-2 in last weekend's 3A West Region final.

The 160-pound championship could also pit two former champs in the finals.

Kade Sanders of New Kent is the defending champion at 160 and likely will be challenged by 2015 138-pound champ Hunter Bolen of Christiansburg in the final.

The 182-pound division could also produce another doozy in the final.

Defending 170-pound champ Ross Graham of Poquson could face undefeated Elijah Seay (40-0) of Staunton River in the final.

Seay beat Graham in overtime earlier this year in a regular season match and was the runner-up last year at 182.

Warren County sophomore heavyweight Nathan Johnson will come into the tournament as a No. 3 seed after being upset last week in the 3A East region semifinals.

If Johnson (38-5) can get past Mathew Fulcher (42-4) of Tunstall in the opener, he could face a rematch with the man who beat him in Ramon Ares of Colonial Heights.

Winning those two matches could get Johnson into the heavyweight final.

In the team competition, Christiansburg is the obvious favorite.

The Blue Demons will have 10 wrestlers in the tournament, one more than 3A East Region champ Brentsville and two more than Cave Spring and Poquoson, the regional runner-ups.

Warren County will bring a program record seven grapplers to the state tournament.

"Our goal is to place as many kids as we can," Warren County coach Matt Wadas said. "This is probably the first time we have sent more underclassmen than seniors, so they need to shed their nerves and be ready to wrestle."

Skyline will be sending two wrestlers to the event after last year's senior-led sixth-place finish in the tournament.

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