The official lifted Covenant wrestler Rick Weaver’s arm in the air to indicate Weaver had won the state title in what is becoming an annual tradition at the VISAA state championships.
In a show of sportsmanship, Weaver quickly reached for opponent Ralph Levy’s arm and lifted it.
“He’s a senior so it was his last time and I just wanted him to feel like he was a part of winning things too because he was, he did a really good job,” Weaver said. “I wanted him to know that he won too, even if he didn’t physically win.”
The St. Christopher’s heavyweight had earned that respect and acknowledgement, testing Weaver as much as anyone ever has in the state championships. After pinning opponents in the finals as a freshman and sophomore to win his first two state titles, Weaver had to work harder for his third, beating Levy 5-0 thanks in part to an early takedown.
“I felt like if I shot first that I would win but if I didn’t shoot first it would be a struggle,” Weaver said. “As we went through the match though, it was still a struggle to keep him down. The guy is an overall good wrestler and I’m just glad I got to wrestle today.”
Battling Levy was just the latest test in what was a bumpy road to a three-peat. A brual knee injury, an ACL and meniscus tear, last summer knocked Weaver, a running back, out of football season and he only returned to the mat in mid-January.
“Just coming back and winning states three times in a row…that’s kind of big,” Weaver said.
Despite that late return, the two-time defending champion was the obvious favorite going into the VISAA tournament and it showed in those pins in the quarterfinals and semifinals. He finishes the season 24-0 and with his third state title in the bag.
He had a pair of teammates join him in the medal round this year too, with senior Jacob Murrie taking third place at 182 pounds and freshman Michael Morales taking sixth place at 106 pounds. Murrie had to rally to win a pair of matches to grab third place after falling in the state semifinals to eventual state champion Carter Davis of St. Christopher’s. The 12-0 loss to Davis took its toll on Murrie, but he battled through it.
“It was tough and it’s also day two of a tournament so you’ve got to expect that and my dad helped me out with some good recovery,” Murrie said. “Also you’ve got your last match in Virginia and I’m a senior, you’re going to get it done.”
Murrie won 8-2 in his first consolation match and then beat Will Smith of Episcopal 8-2 in the third place match, wrestling an aggressive, technical first two periods to cap a sterling prep career in the state of Virginia, though he’ll wrestle at Prep Nationals next week.
“I got to my stuff that I knew I was good at and I hadn’t gotten to it so far today,” Murrie said. “I had to get to what I knew, stay active and stay moving. I wasn’t going to give that one up.”
Several other local wrestlers also qualified for the VISAA medal round and earned places on the podium, led by Woodberry Forest junior Davis Smith. Two pins in the first round and quarterfinals put the Tigers’ leader in the state semifinals and he came through with an 8-2 win there to earn a spot in the championship against Jackson Turley of St. Christopher’s, the eventual team state champion. Turley prevailed 12-4 with a major decision in a match that turned chippy from the outset and required Smith to focus perhaps even more than usual.
“I took all the stuff that was going on during the match and just wrestled, I just kind of toned it out,” Smith said.
Despite the loss in the final, the appearance was a big step for Smith and the Tigers who are in the midst of a rebuild with a ton of young wrestlers on the roster and hosted the state tournament. Freshman Sam Thomas took eighth at 106 pounds, sophomore Rainey O’Malley took seventh at 113 pounds, junior William Thomas was seventh at 152 pounds and sophomore Emmett Aydin took seventh at 182 pounds. That powered the Tigers to a 12th place finish as a team.
“I think that’s definitely a big step just being in the finals and hosting the state tournament, we’re going to try and have it here again next year,” Smith said. “That definitely brings a lot of spotlight to the program.”
Fork Union’s Alex Schlink finished in eighth place for the Blue Devils at 145 pounds. The senior pinned his way into the quarterfinals and then fell in that round before battling back in the consolation round.