Big Orange Classic on William Byrd High School mats this week

The local high school wrestlers had to watch their weight over Christmas with the annual Big Orange Classic scheduled for this week. The two-day tournament will be held at William Byrd High School in Vinton.

This is a new time for the Big Orange. The tournament was traditionally held on the last weekend in January, but bad weather has been the norm and the tournament was also competing against some other events. Vinton officials thought the Christmas break, when the kids are out of school, would be a better time.

“I think it’s a better fit for the school,” said William Byrd coach Thomas Kessler. “We don’t have to worry about working around classes since school isn’t in session, and I feel like we can attract more teams at this time.

The Big Orange has a field of 19 teams. This year’s participants, in addition to host William Byrd, will be Franklin County, Brookville, Blacksburg, Pulaski County, Northside, Radford, Rustburg, Lord Botetourt, Hidden Valley, Roanoke Catholic, Martinsville, Liberty, Salem, Poquoson, Rockbridge County, Liberty Christian Academy, Bassett and Heritage.

The field should be wide open as the last two champions aren’t entered. Last year’s champion, Patrick Henry, is participating in the “Battle of the Bridge” at Woodbridge High School this week. The 2016 champ, Christiansburg, is in the Holiday Hammer tournament in Abingdon.

Wrestling at Byrd will begin Friday at 10:30 am and go until 8 pm Friday night. It will pick back up Saturday at 10:30 am and go until the finals, which are tentatively scheduled for 3:30 pm.

“It’s snowed the past two years and maybe we can avoid that,” said Kessler. “I sure hope so.”

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