Wildcats Return 15 Grapplers

Experience A Plus For Growing Rockbridge County Wrestling Team

Following last winter’s remarkable season, the Rockbridge County High School wrestling team aims to continue to grow, building on the success of the last couple of years.

On their way to placing 12th in the state last winter, the Wildcats made history, advancing a school-record 10 wresters to the state tournament. RC qualified 13 grapplers for the Region 3C tournament, also a school record. The Wildcats placed second at both the Valley District and Region 3C tournaments.

With 15 returning wrestlers and 27 total team members, third-year RC head coach Aaron Bruce believes the Wildcats have the experience and talent to rack up accomplishments this season., and they’re developing more toughness.

“We have four very strong seniors who will be the foundation of a hopefully very successful season,” Bruce said.  “Also, one of the signs that a program is developing is when freshmen come into the practice room and begin to challenge upperclassmen.  We are super excited to see the level of intensity rise among the lower weights specifically because of a couple impressive freshmen.”

From last year’s team, the Wildcats graduated two seniors who qualified for the state tournament, 132-pounder Kaden Wagner and Jacob Stearns (138).

This year, the Wildcats’ seniors are Owen Hall (152), John Ryan Sedovy (170), Hayes Tomlin (182) and Anthony Marando (195). All four wrestlers competed at the state tournament last year. Hall, Sedovy and Tomlin are RC’s co-captains.

Hall, who placed fifth at 145 at the state tournament last winter, has moved up a weight class. “Owen has picked up right where he left off and will certainly be looking to improve on his already impressive résumé,” Bruce said.

The Wildcats’ other state placer last winter was Sedovy, who won the Valley District and Region 3C titles at 170 before placing fourth at the state tournament. “John Ryan has been anxiously waiting for the season to begin, as he looks to improve his placement on the podium,” Bruce said. Adding depth at 170 are sophomores Ethan Aldridge and Logan Pitzer.

Bruce said Tomlin, a Valley District champion, “is in shape and ready to do very well at the state tournament.  Hayes has been involved in the sport of wresting for a long time and brings a wealth of experience into the room.”

Marando is “one of the strongest wrestlers any of the coaches have ever witnessed,” Bruce said, adding that Marando should be a state placer this season.

Another returning district champion and state qualifier is junior Seth Youngblood (160). Bruce said Youngblood “will look to bring home some hardware from the state tournament this season.” Challenging Youngblood at 170 will be returning sophomore John Campbell.

The RC coaches hope to get returning state qualifier Justin Clark, a sophomore, back down to 106. Challenging Clark for the starting spot are two freshmen, Hans-Pieter Nelson and Isaiah Bell.

Showing great promise at 220 is returning state qualifier Wendell Tyson, a junior. “Wendell is showing signs of being much more physically aggressive this preseason and looks to make some noise at the state tournament,” Bruce said.

In the heavyweight division is junior Igor Lakicevic, who was a regional qualifier last winter. Bruce said Lakicevic could drop to 220 to challenge Tyson for the starting spot. “Igor has been an awesome contributor to our program with his positive can-do attitude,” Bruce said.

Adding depth at 220 is sophomore Will Garrett, a new team member.

A newcomer to the program is junior David Allio, who transferred from North Stafford High School and is coming off a strong season as a lineman for the RC football team. Allio will challenge in the heavyweight division.

A returning regional qualifier from last winter is junior Dacomha Dandridge (120).

Sophomore Alden Dorey (138) returns after qualifying for the regional tournament as a freshman. Dorey wrestled at 126 last year but has put on some muscle in the offseason. “Our hopes are for Alden to be a state qualifier this season,” Bruce said. Challenging Dorey for the starting spot will be freshman Joshua Cundiff.

Bruce also has great expectations for junior Nic Marando (145), who had been “nipping at the heals” of Hall for the starting spot at 145 the last two years. “We are excited to see him in the lineup and have high hopes that he will also be a state qualifier,” Bruce said. Backing up Marando at 145 are freshmen Brice Hall and River Hull.

The early starter at 113 is freshman Zeke Mohr. “Zeke has been a challenging workout partner for the lower-weight upperclassmen, and we are happy to have him,” Bruce said. Challenging Mohr for the starting spots are freshmen Taylor Skipper and Jason Young.

Freshman Tom Maxwell will represent the Wildcats at 126, and freshman Matt Dameron will be at 132. Also new to the team is freshman Zacharie Bryant.

In the Valley District, Bruce expects defending champion Turner Ashby to be the Wildcats’ toughest competition. The Wildcats avenged the loss to TA by finishing a place ahead of the Knights in the Region 3C tournament, but TA finished ninth in the state tournament, three places ahead of RC. “I expect we will once again be in a knock-down drag-out [battle] with them in the district,” Bruce said.

In the region, Bruce expects defending champion Brookville to be the team to beat, and regional newcomers Liberty Christian Academy and Wilson Memorial will also be competitive.

Returning as the Wildcats’ assistant coaches are Chris Skretkowicz and John Campbell. Both bring a lot of experience, as Skretkowicz coached at Virginia Military Institute, and Campbell is the head coach at Maury River Middle School.

Bruce said the Wildcats have 12 wrestlers who have the potential to qualify for the tournament, and he and his assistant coaches think eight have the potential to place in the top eight.

The RC coach said the main challenge for the Wildcats is to get tougher. “Really tough wrestling teams have a level of intensity in the practice room that would scare most people,” he said.  “A lot of adults would be surprised at how focused and determined a group of teenage boys can be if given the proper environment and leadership.  We need to get tougher in the room. Just plain old fashion tough.  It’s coming, but that takes time. … The boys are becoming men.”

The Wildcats will begin the season with the 10th annual Shumaker Classic this weekend at Parry McCluer. Wrestling is scheduled to start on Friday at 6 p.m. and on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. RC’s lone home tournament is scheduled for next Wednesday, Dec. 11.

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