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Cavs place high at Big Blue

Lakeland had five of its nine wrestlers place and three Cavaliers finished in the top five of their weight classes Saturday at the Big Blue Invitational at Christiansburg High School.

Christiansburg, the defending Group AA state champions, have often been nationally-ranked in the recent past. The tournament also included top schools from West Virginia and Tennessee.

Lakeland head coach John Bostwick said, “the tournament this year was better and more competitive than last year and we went from 16th last year to seventh this year.”

The Cavaliers had only nine wrestlers make the trip. Justin Howell led Lakeland finishing second in the 215-pound class.

The loss in the final was Howell’s first of the season and came against an opponent he defeated earlier this season. “To split with that guy is just fine. Both guys are state-ranked,” said Bostwick.

Cory Beale, at 171 pounds, finished fourth. Alex Sari, at 152, was fifth. Lance Smith, at 140, placed sixth; and Warren Weaver, at 160 pounds, finished eighth.

Christiansburg won the tournament with St. Christopher’s, possibly the best private school team in Virginia said Bostwick, coming in second. Parkersburg, W.V. was third and Great Bridge was fourth.

The Cavaliers are preparing for the Southeastern District Tournament on Feb. 5-6. Bostwick hopes the competition at the Big Blue Invitational came at the right time.

“We’re trying to find out where our good guys are, guys who are hoping to get into regionals,” Bostwick said. “Then for the guys who are at the regional level, this tells them how they’re doing against other very good wrestlers and what they need to fix or fine tune in order to make the state tournament.”

“Our whole goal is to have the best preparation possible for the postseason, so that’s why we want to face tougher competition,” Bostwick said.

For instance, the Cavalier coach says, Smith, his 140-pounder, might not have as outstanding a record as some in his weight class, but all of his losses have come to state-ranked opponents.

The Cavaliers have one more big day and three more major tests before the postseason.

On Saturday, starting at 10 a.m., Lakeland is hosting a quad meet with Nansemond River, Indian River and York.

Lakeland, NR and IR will be making up a Southeastern District meet that was postponed earlier this season.

The Warriors have two tournament championships to their credit this season. Nansemond River won the Presidents Cup Tournament at Wilson in December and its own Nansemond River Invitational in January.

More impressively though, Nansemond River upset district powers Great Bridge and Grassfield in a district meet on Jan. 13, giving the Warriors a 4-1 district record at that point.

At the Mike Duman Toys 4 Tots Invitational at Lakeland just before Christmas, Lakeland placed second in the 17-school field while the Warriors were sixth.

Saturday’s schedule at Lakeland has Lakeland vs. York and Nansemond River vs. Indian River at 10 a.m. Nansemond River vs. York and Lakeland vs. Indian River will start at 11:45 a.m. Indian River vs. York and Nansemond River vs. Lakeland will complete the meet at 1:30 p.m.