By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
The road to the Virginia state wrestling tournament begins today for the Graham G-Men. At noon the team and coaches will board the bus and head to Rural Retreat for the Region C tournament. Sixteen teams from four districts will compete in the two-day event which will send the top four wrestlers in each weight class to next weekend’s state meet at the Salem Civic Center.
GHS wrestling coach Tim Woodward talked about the competitiveness of the teams involved.
“Parry McClure has a good team, James River, Radford, George Wythe, Galax, it will be a very, very competitive tournament,” Woodward said. “This year I hope we can get as many as five, or six wrestlers through to the state. We had a good season, finished 26-2. We had eight individual champions in the Mountain Empire. We had seven the year before, eight is the most we’ve ever had.”
Two wrestlers for Graham know the road well. Last year Dustin Hagerman and Everett Vest were two of three G-Men who made it to Salem, the third being Heath Browning who has graduated. Hagerman and Vest both look to make the trek next week and know what they must do to get there.
Hagerman, the Mountain Empire District Wrestler of the Year across all weight classes, sports a 44-1 record this season and has 170 career wins. He will attend Ferrum College next fall on an academic and wrestling scholarship and is well-aware of who will be his toughest competition.
“Corbin Woods of Parry McClure, he was the state champion last year. He’s tough, he beat me in the region last year,” Hagerman said.
Asked what he and the team is doing and how the coaches are helping them prepare, Hagerman said, “We practice hard, drill hard, wrestle live at practice and we run.”
A wrestler since elementary school, Hagerman continued, “I’ve wrestled every year in the club and over the summer and have stayed with it my whole life.”
Vest looks to make a return to the state tournament, but it will be in a different weight class. Last year he wrestled in 285 but this year is competing at 220 after an auto accident and subsequent knee surgery, he feels he is better suited for the lower weight division. Vest wrestled to a 38-10 record this year and a second-place finish in the district match. It should be noted that he weighs the same as he did last year, 215, but he wrestled in a higher weight class. Vest is hoping for team success.
“It’s going to be tough,” Vest said. “I’m hoping we will do well overall as a team. The toughest ones (matches) that I have had were in our district, with Galax, and they are on the other side of the bracket from us, so I think I will be good until the finals.
“Overall, I hope everyone does well, that we place as high as we can and take as many as we can to state.”
Following graduation this spring Vest will report to Fort Benning, Ga., with hopes of becoming an infantryman in the United States Army with hopes of becoming an airborne soldier and an Army wrestler.
In addition to Hagerman and Vest, other senior wrestlers competing for the G-Men will be Austin Miller at 132. Miller had a 35-7 record this year and was the MED champion. Jacob Evans at 145 was 25-14 and was second in the district. Aaron Thompson at 160 claimed a second place district finish. Robert Compton was 37-11 this year, has 123 career wins and was MED champion.
Three juniors will represent Graham on the mats. Kyshon Lee at 170 won the district crown and had a 41-8 season mark. Levi Stroupe at 182 carries a 31-9 record into the regional match and finished second in the district. Colin Beavers is another MED champion. At the 285 level he was 17-4 during the regular season.
Dacota Byrd and Shane Hudson are sophomores who both came in second in the district. Byrd at 152 and Hudson at 120 pounds.
Tristan Evans, a freshman, won the MED championship in the 126 weight class and had a 22-15 regular season record.
Woodward is proud of a team he considered at the beginning of the year at best a .500 squad, due to graduation from the previous year.
“It’s a good bunch. They work hard, they have a positive attitude, they go out there and do their best which is all the coaches can ask of them, and they’ve improved all season long,” Woodward commented. “They’ve worked hard and it has been a very rewarding surprise what they have accomplished this season.”
Weigh-ins are at 2 p.m. today with wrestling starting at 4 o’clock. Saturday’s weigh-ins are at 8 a.m., with action beginning at 10 o’clock.