New Script For TA
Knights Hot In Postseason
Posted: February 11, 2013
LEXINGTON — To paraphrase senior Luke Kiser, his Turner Ashby High School wrestling team accomplished both the impossible and the unreal on Saturday. He was describing two different events.
TA had five finalists in the two-day Region III wrestling tournament, including two winners: Kiser at 152 pounds and senior Nic Moyers at 285. That helped the Knights, who have heated up in the postseason, finish fourth out of 20 teams at the Virginia Horse Center.
Turner Ashby finishing in the top four is the part Kiser said he didn’t “consider possible” earlier this season. TA did it by going 5-for-5 in the semifinals, including two wins by freshmen.
The regional win for Moyers, who is in his first season wrestling after getting cut from the basketball team, Kiser said, was “like a story out of a movie.”
“The [TA] coaches, they’re so good at growing a wrestler throughout the season, it’s hard to tell what’s possible,” Kiser said. “But you saw a huge jump with these kids.”
Turner Ashby lost five of its six Group AA state qualifiers from last season – including Jackson Reel, who died in a tragic car accident in October just before practice started. TA had enough on its hands recuperating emotionally from Reel’s death, never mind recovering on the mat.
The Valley District’s premier wrestling power went on to finish third in the regular season, behind Broadway and Harrisonburg. But the Knights edged HHS for their 15th straight Valley tournament title last week, then out-did the 2012 team at regionals. They finished a spot higher as a team than last year while sending just as many wrestlers (six) to this weekend’s state tournament in Salem.
TA scored 126.5 points, within two of both runner-up Northside (128.5) and third-place Staunton River (127.5) but well back of Brookville (192.5), which won its third straight regional title.
“We had an unbelievable semis round – winning big matches, beating guys we had lost to before,” TA coach Marshall Smiley said. “…I really wouldn’t have thought we would have had six state qualifiers, but you never know.”
The Knights’ accomplishments were the most surprising, but they weren’t the only notable performances among Harrisonburg/Rockingham schools.
Another honor belonged to Harrisonburg senior Ahmad Salehi, who won the 195-pound weight class for the Blue Streaks’ first individual regional win since Tony Villeda did it at 135 pounds in 2009. In a rematch from the district final – which Salehi also won – Salehi beat Broadway junior Tyler Funkhouser by a 9-4 decision.
Harrisonburg, which had a banner year in winning the Valley regular-season title, had a handful of disappointments before Salehi’s match, with five wrestlers advancing to Day 2 but just two finishing in the top four to get state berths. Salehi said he felt the pressure of being the Blue Streaks’ only finalist – particularly after his buddy, senior captain and 2012 state qualifier Trent Sosa, finished fifth to miss this year’s state tournament.
“Trent Sosa especially, he’s a senior, he’s my captain, and he would kill to be in my position,” said Salehi, who spearheaded HHS’s eighth-place finish (92 points). “I was like, ‘This is not just for me, this is for Harrisonburg High School and the Harrisonburg wrestling program.’”
The most convincing win belonged, surprisingly, to Moyers, who continues to shake heads in his first season of wrestling. An all-region lineman who’s being recruited by James Madison’s football team, Moyers took an 8-4 lead before pinning Alleghany senior Addison Morgan with four seconds left in the third period, as the final match of the tournament ended with a roar from a concentrated pocket of TA fans.
“When I started [wrestling], I kept an open mind to how good I could be,” Moyers said. “…It kind of started setting in that I could beat some of these good guys and maybe go far, but I mean, regionals – honestly, I had no idea I would come this far.”
Moyers’ win followed Kiser’s at 152 pounds, which was more expected after Kiser won the state championship at 145 last year. Kiser equaled his older brother, former TA wrestler Bryce Kiser – who was taking pictures of Luke mat-side with his cell phone – by winning his second straight regional title, beating Waynesboro junior Devin Kestner by an 11-6 decision in a match that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
In the midst of all the emotional wins, though, Smiley rued a couple of losses that prevented the Knights from a runner-up finish.
The closest came at 182 pounds, where senior Josh Powers lost a 2-1 decision to Waynesboro junior Kahwan Veney. The score was 1-1 until Powers was whistled for a one-point stalling penalty with 25 seconds left in the match, and Powers lost to the opponent he beat 9-3 in last week’s Valley tournament.
“It was a tough call – we had just taken a shot. I’m not sure how the call was justified,” Smiley said. “But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. …We had the opportunity to score earlier in that match.”
Smiley said he was also hoping for better final performances from his lightweight freshmen. Dalton Farley (106 pounds) and Jacob Ritchie (120) – who could be the future faces of TA’s wrestling program – were both pinned in their championship matches.
Broadway, which finished 12th with 72 points, had two finalists but no winners as both Funkhouser and junior Drew Diaz (lost 6-2 decision at 113 pounds) fell short.
Spotswood was represented Saturday by its lone female wrestler, junior Lenee Figliola, at 106 pounds, but she lost consecutive matches in the consolation bracket to miss a state bid. The Blazers (11 points) finished 20th.