Success, challenge define NRHS wrestling event

Published 12:14 pm Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reset: Nansemond River High School junior 160-pounder Leon Lynch awaits the referee's whistle during his third place match in the Mike Duman Toys for Tots Holiday Invitational on Saturday. (Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald)

Reset: Nansemond River High School junior 160-pounder Leon Lynch awaits the referee’s whistle during his third place match in the Mike Duman Toys for Tots Holiday Invitational on Saturday. (Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald)

Suffolk high school wrestlers found the going tough but the experience valuable in the fifth year of the continually growing Mike Duman Toys for Tots Holiday Invitational at Nansemond River High School on Friday and Saturday.

Warriors assistant wrestling coach John Bostwick once again organized the event and said it was “probably the biggest and the most competitive.”

Nansemond River accumulated 182 points to place fifth in a field of 20 schools. Senior 126-pounder Donya Craig was the lone Suffolk wrestler to win first in a weight class. He improved to 16-3 on the season with a pin of Princess Anne High School sophomore Brian Swinson in one minute, 39 seconds.

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Local wrestlers who are often expected to win like Warriors senior heavyweight Caleb Repko and King’s Fork High School senior 160-pounder Aaron Hommell placed third and seventh, respectively.

Bostwick was successful this year in attracting strong schools like Poquoson High School, Princess Anne, Oscar Smith High School and Mountain View High School, which finished in first place with 231.5 points.

They posed a great challenge, “which is what we’re looking for to try to improve,” Bostwick said.

Sophomore 106-pounder Malcolm Dawson performed well, placing second in his weight class. He lost by 17-3 major decision to Poquoson senior Hunter Wright, but it was only Dawson’s second loss of the season, putting his record at 16-2.

“He’s starting to turn a corner where he’s wrestling good kids, but he’s becoming more consistent,” Bostwick said.

Warriors junior Leon Lynch finished third in the 160-pound weight class via a 7-1 decision over junior Richard Cruz of Deep Creek High School.

Bostwick described the demands that the busy, fast-paced tournament puts on its participants.

“You’re challenging the kids mentally to be able to wrestle two or three matches that are tough,” he said. “We’re in a grind for two or three matches where you’re going six minutes.”

He was pleased to provide his wrestlers with the challenge so early in the season, allowing time to correct errors and get ready for the post-season.

The Warriors had eight wrestlers to place in the top eight of their respective weight classes. King’s Fork came in last among team scores and only had two wrestlers place, but Bulldogs head coach Brett Heberling said, “I wasn’t too disappointed.”

He said pretty much everybody outside of Hommell was a first-year wrestler. He wished Hommell had placed higher but said everyone has a tournament where they cannot get things to come together right, and this was that tourney for Hommell.

Hommell defeated Pasquotank County High School junior Isaias Harris on a 9-4 decision.

Bulldogs senior Tre’onte Beale placed seventh in the 220-pound weight class, defeating Currituck County High School freshman Christian Franco by 18-10 major decision.

“I was glad,” Heberling said. “I was really happy for him.”

Beale struggled with some principles of wrestling, but Heberling said he is learning.

Lakeland finished 18th as a team with 34 points and had one wrestler to place — junior 285-pounder Travis Jones. He took seventh after pinning Salem High School junior Army Motu’apauka in three minutes even.

“I was very happy at the end of the tournament with the way that all of my guys wrestled,” Cavaliers head coach Jamaal Jones said.

He wasted no time in helping his wrestlers learn from the experience.

“Today we actually watched video from the tournament and just went over some things,” he said. “The tournament was another teaching tool. It gave the guys a lot of mat time within those two days.”

Another beneficiary of the higher level competition was Toys for Tots.

“The better caliber teams that you pull in, the more successful that the event is,” Bostwick said.

While the total amount of money raised was not available on Monday, Bostwick expects it to be the highest ever, like the attendance. For the two days, he estimated at least 500 spectators came out, and enough toys were donated to fill five to six Toys for Tots boxes.

King’s Fork heads to H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, D.C. for a match on Saturday.

Nansemond River returns to the mat on Jan. 8 at Deep Creek High School, facing the Hornets and Great Bridge High School. Lakeland also returns on Jan. 8 for its only home match, hosting King’s Fork and Hickory High School on senior night.