PM Ready To Return To Mat

Grapplers Adjust To COVID-19 Protocols

Mixing experience with youth, the Parry McCluer High School wrestling team is eager to compete this season.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic that hit Virginia just after wrestling season ended in late February, the Fighting Blues waited until Dec. 14 to have their first official contact practice. They were meeting for weightlifting throughout the fall and have been observing COVID-19 protocols. Each wrestler has his temperature taken before practice and answers screening questions. When not wrestling, the Blues wear masks, and each wrestler keeps the same partner in practice for several weeks.

Another response to COVID-19 is that the Virginia High School League will only allow dual and tri-meets, eliminating the larger invitational tournaments, and only 25 spectators are allowed.

“We just want to get an opportunity to wrestle,” said 13th-year PM head coach Jeremiah Brockenbrough. “I think we’ve proven here in Buena Vista, especially with our athletics, we’re being safe, doing the right protocols. We just hope to compete.”

Last year, Brockenbrough and assistant coaches Chad Dorey and Brian Crews led the Blues to 10th place at the Class 1 state tournament.

The Blues graduated three seniors from that team, including state placers Trent Fitzgerald (third, 182-pounds) and Nick Craft (138). Also graduating was state qualifier Tyler Royer (106).

PM has eight returning wrestlers and three grapplers on its varsity team.

Expected to lead is Forrest Vassar, who was the state runner-up in the 285-pound/heavyweight division last year. In the state finals, Vassar lost in a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker to Galax’s Brender Rojas.

Sophomore Kabell Austin (195) also qualified for the state tournament last year, at 220-pounds, but he had to sit out due to an injury. Brockenbrough said Austin could wrestle at 220 again this year, and his wrestlers at 170-pounds and 182-pounds could move up a weight class or two as well.

Also returning at heavyweight is junior Anthony Lilly.

At 182 is junior Kaden Forun, new to the team. Returning at 170 is junior Jeremiah Fulwider, who placed eighth at the Class 1 Super Region tournament. Backing him up is freshman Cody Thomas.

Joining the Blues for his second varsity season after a strong sophomore year is junior Jimmy Dunbar. Returning at 152 is junior Dylan Critzer.

At 145, PM returns senior Matthew Mears, who was one match away from qualifying for the state tournament last year.

Freshman Aaron Pruett has moved up from the middle school level to wrestle at 145, and freshman Lee Chittum joins the team at 120. Returning at 113 is sophomore Matthew Snider.

Brockenbrough is also excited about his junior varsity/middle school program, with Dorey and Crews working together to coach those wrestlers. The top wrestlers, all eighth-graders, in that program are Jackson Brockenbrough (126), Rayshaun Richardson (285/heavyweight) and Clay Davis.

With the sports seasons condensed due to the pandemic, the Blues have six regular-season duals scheduled, but new duals could be added, and other changes could be made. “You just never know, day to day,” said Brockenbrough.

PM is scheduled to travel to face Pioneer District rival, Covington, on Jan. 30, but Covington’s season may be on hold, Brockenbrough said.

The Blues have two home competitions: a dual meet against Alleghany on Jan. 20, and the regional tournament on Feb. 5.

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