At many schools across the country that are outside of the sport’s hotbeds like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa or Oklahoma, wrestling teams have struggled in recent years to fill out their entire roster. That led, indirectly, to a waning in the old school dual meet in Central Virginia, a single school versus single school competition that was a staple of the sport 10-20 years ago.
“In high school wrestling, teams are trying to get as many matches in as they possibly can,” said Western Albemarle coach Scott Townsend. “They go to dual tournaments and to individual tournaments and they’re always on the weekends and it’s hard to get the student body to come out and support that because it’s so long.”
That’s led to the disappearance of a lot of duals and while a few duals have survived locally, they’ve been replaced largely by weeknight quad meets with four teams or tri-meets with three teams.
Wednesday night though — thanks to a cancellation of a quad and Townsend reaching out to Charlottesville coach David Wilkerson to replace it — Western Albemarle and Charlottesville resurrected their installment of the old school dual.
“We want to build up that camaraderie, that rivalry,” Townsend said.
The match put local wrestlers in the spotlight in front of a larger than usual crowd where the two programs locked up in a match that the Warriors won 51-30.
“It’s healthy to have a hostile crowd, I want them to experience what it’s like to be cheered against and to be the focal point of what’s happening in the gymnasium,” Wilkerson said. “Wrestling ultimately is about overcoming challenges like that.”
Western jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the match, built on a win by William Grisdale at 106 pounds and a pin by Wyatt Witt at 113 and a pair of forfeit victories by Lucas Silva and Leland Crickenberger.
But CHS responded and put together a run of three straight pins by Walter Pilkey-Chevez, Donvin Champion and Justyn Reyes and picked up a forfeit before Xavier Castaneda stepped in at 157 pounds and came up with a pin of his own for his 100th career victory.
“He’s the only kid I know who’s been with the program for six years (two years in middle school) and he gets better every year,” Wilkerson said. “He usually leaves our practice and goes to an MMA practice, he’s very committed to combat sports.”
Townsend pointed out just how impressive Castaneda reaching the 100 win mark was due to the circumstances of the past few years with an entire two years of wrestling interrupted or shortened by COVID.
Western didn’t wilt after Charlottesville reeled off 30 unanswered points and went on a run of its own. Ian Ratcliffe got it started with a pin at 165 pounds and then Thomas Warren came up with another pin at 175 pounds. Owen Townsend followed that with a pin at 190 and Ian Marshall made it four-in-a-row with a pin at 220. With Parker Vorhees grabbing a forfeit at 285, the match was over, ending on Western’s own 30-point run.
Townsend, a freshman, has emerged as a force in the 190-pound class of late. The accomplished middle school wrestler has picked up some serious steam of late.
“He has all the knowledge and see it come out has been really cool to see,” Warren said. “Just last weekend two of his opponents in bigger tournaments he’d lost to them but then we went to Fluvanna’s dual tournament and he pinned both of those kids, it was really cool to see.”
Some of that just comes down to experience and confidence, which Townsend is gaining by the day.
“Coming into the season I was nervous because I was wrestling all these seniors and juniors so at first there were some nerves,” Townsend said. “The first few matches didn’t go so well but as the season progressed I started realizing what I was doing, I was realizing I just made this mistake and I’m going to improve it next time.”
Both teams seemed to relish the opportunity to compete in the classic dual format, especially the squads’ seniors who celebrated senior night.
“We haven’t done these very often since my freshman year so it brought back a lot of memories, it was really fun,” Castaneda said.
“It was really fun, I’ve been wrestling here for four years and it’s the first time we’ve had a true old school dual, it was really fun to see,” Warren said.
With regionals coming up in the next couple of weeks, a lot of important wrestling is ahead for both these squads on the weekends. But for a night they were in the spotlight and got a chance to be a part of the resetting of a new tradition.