In the sport of wrestling, the two-day end-of-season tournaments are the most intense, grueling part of the season. The physical demands of making weight two days in a row, being in a gym for more than 24 hours, and wrestling late Friday and again early Saturday can be overwhelming. Add to that the mental challenge of losing a close quarter- or semi-final match and then having to come back within an hour and wrestle again just to stay in the tournament and you have the potential for a major collapse. Last weekend at Strasburg High School, two George Mason wrestlers – freshman Hunter Sulc and junior Grant Hagler – welcomed the pressure and stepped up to earn spots in the single-A state wrestling tournament this coming weekend in Salem.
After a first-round bye, Sulc opened up his tournament against the top wrestler from the Shenandoah District, Evan Calvert. He gave up a few early takedowns but used his superior stamina to outlast Calvert and get a 12-8 victory. The win put him in rematch of the district semifinals against Skylar Wolf of Central High School. It was much closer this time around, but Sulc still came out on the wrong end of a 6-2 decision and was dropped into the consolation bracket, one loss from being eliminated. Sulc responded to the loss by coming back even stronger in his next two matches, first winning 7-2 to get into the third-place match and then beating the top wrestler from the Dogwood District by a score of 6-3 to secure a third-place medal.
Hagler started his day with a quick pin of his opponent in just two minutes to put him against the number one wrestler from Riverheads High School, Ty Wade, in the quarterfinals. After a very tough 9-0 defeat, Hagler was still three wins from the state tournament. The challenge did not go unaccepted, as Hagler made short work of his opponents, pinning all three of them in the second period of each match. The victories put Grant into the third-place match against his previous opponent, Wade. Using his experience form their first battle, Hagler was able to make the match much closer but in the end fell 4-1 to finish in fourth.
“These two guys work together in practice and are always pushing each other to improve, to be tougher and it showed today,” Head Coach Bryan Harris said. “They’ve worked really hard to get to this point and I’m thrilled that they’ve earned this opportunity.”
Sulc and Hagler will compete for state medals this Friday and Saturday at the Salem Civic Center.