Both tournaments leading into the Region B tournament had to be cancelled, and regional athletic directors and school superintendants decided on a two-day, weekend tournament.
“You know the circumstances are extraordinary when the VHSL allows wrestling to occur on a Sunday,” said Mason’s head coach, Bryan Harris, “but there really was no other choice.”
And so teams from as far away as Charlotte Court House, a 225-mile drive for the Randolph Henry Statesmen, assembled at Strasburg High to determine who would be the Region B representatives in Salem, Va. for the Group A state championships.
Four Mason wrestlers qualified for the state event, on every wrestler’s schedule. Natan Lailari at 145, Teddy Rueckert at 152, Manuel Veiga-Diaz at 189 and Mike Larcamp at Hwt earned the right to advance. Lailari, Veiga-Diaz and Larcamp each finished in second place, and Rueckert took third.
“We always hope that everyone secures a spot at the state tournament,” said Harris. “However, that doesn’t make it any easier when the reality of the situation sets in, particularly for seniors Sam Dittmar and Alex Castueble. They wrestled their hearts out and have to be proud of the fact that they came with their best efforts.”
Sophomores Alborz Alaeddini, Ben Tourkin, Ze’ev Lailari, Keiyon Tyler and season powerhouse Danny Seidita also wrestled for Mason but did not make the cut. “These guys did a terrific job, too,” added Harris. “The great thing is that they will be back next year. Getting to the state tournament is not easy, but now they have an idea of what it takes to achieve that goal.”
Each of Mason’s four qualifiers won their first two matches on Saturday to propel them into the semifinals in their weight classes.
At 145, Lailari, who is in only his second year of wrestling, took out top-ranked Buffalo Gap’s Zak Richey 3-1 to face Clarke County’s Joe Nappi in the final.
In that finals matchup, a scoreless first period where neither wrestler could secure a takedown set the tone for the bout. It wasn’t until almost halfway through the second period that Nappi managed an escape and a 1-0 lead. He was able to increase that to 3-0 with a late period takedown and a quick escape by Lailari made the score 3-1 at the start of the third. Another Lailari escape with a minute to go in the third cut Nappi’s lead to 3-2 but he was unable to penetrate Nappi’s defense and the match ended.
In Rueckert’s semi final match, he was defeated by Andrew Riner from Madison County. He had to fight his way back through the consolation bracket to earn the right to wrestle for third place. In that match he took defeated Charles Lawhorn of Buffalo Gap by a score of 5-3.
Veiga-Diaz cruised through his competition with two pins and a 9-3 decision over Amelia’s top ranked Ethan Chamberlin en route to a finals rematch with the state’s second-ranked wrestler Rob Wallace of Clarke County. Wallace defeated Veiga-Diaz 7-0.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Larcamp’s appearance in the finals at heavyweight. The
unheralded Mustang literally came out of nowhere to defeat three highly ranked wrestlers, including Buffalo Gap’s seventh-ranked Jesse Banks in the quarterfinals and Madison County’s Derek Nicholson in the semifinals, to find himself in a finals matchup, which he lost, with the state’s fifth-ranked wrestler Lucas Ryan of Stonewall Jackson.
Despite the loss, Larcamp said the finals-place match was “a dream come true.” He continued, “I’m not going to let this one match affect me as I prepare for the state tournament, except to make me work even harder to face Lucas in the state finals.”
Harris said he was confident his Mustangs could come back from Salem with four medals. “These four guys are peaking in terms of performance at just the right time,” he said.
The Group A tournament is this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 19 -20, at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va. Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. Friday.