The George Mason High School Wrestling team made a statement to the local wrestling establishment this weekend as it put two of its members into the finals of the annual Northern Virginia Classic Wrestling Tournament, held at Fairfax High School.
David Ray and Jake Schwind made Mason wrestling history on Saturday, and capped an unprecedented two days of wrestling against some of the best wrestlers from Northern Virginia, Richmond and the Virginia Beach area by gaining places at the finals of Northern Virginia’s most prestigious wrestling tournament.
With 32 wrestlers in each weight class, Ray needed five victories to claim the championship, and did so in a strikingly dominating fashion. Schwind was not able to match his teammate’s success and came away in second place.
Ray’s championship and Schwind’s runner-up finish were not the only noteworthy results from the Classic, as Tim Hillegass finished in seventh at 145 and Manuel Veiga-Diaz came within one match of gaining the medal round. All together, the four wrestlers propelled Mason to a 19th place finish out of 32 teams.
Ray and Schwind went undefeated during Friday’s session as they advanced to the semi finals of their respective weight classes. Ray was not scored upon in his three Friday matches as he pinned all 3 of his opponents. Schwind won two of his Friday matches by pin and the other by the score of 5-1. Saturday saw Ray advance to the finals with a 9-5 win over eventual third place winner Matt Smith of Woodbridge, and Schwind advanced with a 6-4 overtime victory over Wakefield’s Chris Iofredda.
In his finals match, Ray faced off against Nick Grinups of Westfield. Grinups, who placed fifth at last year’s AAA state championships, is ranked fifth in the state this year. Mason fans watched in stunned silence as Ray fell behind 5-0 early in the first period when he got caught in a headlock and put to his back, but after a tense 30 seconds, he escaped, and from that point, there was no doubt who was in charge. For the rest of the match, Ray had Grinups either on his back or on his way to it. The final score was 12-5.
Schwind had a little rougher go of it and lost by fall to Jordan Yost of Fairfax. Yost is currently ranked second among Northern Region AAA wrestlers. Hillegass finished the tournament with a 5-2 record en route to his seventh place finish. Veiga-Diaz, who is in his first year of wrestling, made an incredible run for a rookie, but eventually fell just short of a medal to finish at 4-2 for the weekend.
Another item of note was the Coach’s corner for the Mustangs. For the first time in a decade, Mason has a new head wrestling coach. Former assistant Bryan Harris is now the head coach and longtime head coach John Pitas has settled in as Harris’ assistant. “It was time,” said Pitas, when asked why he gave up the position he had held for so long. “Bryan has been my assistant for 5 years and he has earned the chance. I felt it was an essential step for the long term security and stability of the wrestling program at GM. Now I hope to be as good an assistant to him as he was to me.”
The wrestling Mustangs next action is this weekend at Warren County High School.