Suffolk has four All-American wrestlersPublished 10:59pm Friday, June 14, 2013
Four Suffolk wrestlers earned the title of All-American at the Middle Atlantic Wrestling Association Eastern National Championships in Salisbury, Md., last month.
Nansemond River High School junior Caleb Repko won the honor for the second time in a row after finishing fifth, John Yeates Middle School eighth-grader Dia Gray burst onto the scene with a fourth-place finish, Warriors sophomore Leon Lynch also finished fourth and King’s Fork High School junior Aaron Hommell placed sixth.
Nansemond River head coach Tripp Seed had a special appreciation for what these wrestlers accomplished because he, too, climbed the ladder of MAWA events, from district, to regional, to the national event.
“I did it once when I was out of high school in the open division,” he said. “I know how hard it is, it’s not an easy tournament at all, so it was kind of impressive for the kids to get All-American.”
Aside from placing in the top eight at the national level, All-American wrestlers had to get there first.
Getting there meant placing in the top three at the district level, which features the best wrestlers locally. The top three move on to the regional tournament, which includes competitors from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia. The top four regional finalists then compete against the top four from the other three regions at the eastern national tourney.
Repko won at the district level and placed third at the regional event. He was happy about receiving the All-American title again, but would have been happier to come in first.
“I lost to the guy who got first,” Repko said. “He was a Prep All-American, he was real tough, and I lost to him pretty bad, but all the matches I wrestle, you learn something from every single one of them, so that’s what the tough tournaments are about.”
He won his final match at the event to earn his placement of fifth.
“I left happy because I left with a ‘W,’ so that’s always nice,” he said.
Dia Gray was a bit of a surprise to Seed.
“I really didn’t know what to expect from someone like Dia, because he’s in middle school,” he said. “He wrestled (junior varsity) all year.”
He placed second at the district tourney, then won the region. Being named All-American after placing fourth at the national tourney was no small thing for Gray.
“It actually means a lot to me because a kid my age really got far, so it really helps me a lot to see what’s ahead of me in my path,” he said.
He explained that what helped him achieve this success so early was “the spirit from my teammates, my family and especially a good bit of help from my big brother because he brought me this far and helped me out so much.”
His brother, Demetrius Gray, was a wrestler for Nansemond River before he graduated in 2011.
Leon Lynch won the district and placed third in the region. He shared his perspective on the All-American honor.
“It just reflects on the work I put into my sport,” he said.
He said his dedication and personality to strive for success in anything he does have helped him succeed as an underclassman.
Hommell also won the district and placed third regionally.
He said that northern states tend to dominate wrestling, “so for me and the other wrestlers from Virginia to go up there and place in the nationals means a lot.”
“It was definitely good motivation for next year,” he said.