Big Orange sending seven to state mats in Salem this week

The William Byrd Big Orange wrestling team will send seven boys to the state tournament this weekend at the Salem Civic Center. Byrd finished second in the Region 3D tournament in Christiansburg last weekend.

The Terriers are back in Salem after dropping from Class 4 to Class 3. Last year, in Class 4, the state tournament was held in northern Virginia and this year the Class 4 wrestlers are in Tuscarora. However, since Byrd is now in Class 3 the Terriers will compete just across the valley at the Salem Civic Center.

“I couldn’t be happier to be back in Salem,” said coach Thomas Kessler, who wrestled in the state at the Salem Civic Center as a student at Byrd. “Bringing seven to the state is a pretty good number. We’re looking to be successful at all weights.”

The civic center will host the Class 1, 2 and 3 Virginia High School League tournaments. Action begins at 10 am Friday with the first round, followed by quarterfinals and first round consolation matches for Class 3. Second round consolations for all classes are at 5 pm Friday with quarterfinal consolations at 6:30 pm.

Things really get tight on Saturday with the semifinals scheduled for 10 am. Semifinal consolations follow at noon with consolation finals for third through sixth place beginning around 1:30 pm. The championship finals are at 5 pm and all three classes will compete simultaneously.

Byrd is coming off a solid Region 3D tournament. State power Christiansburg, the host team, won as expected but the Terriers were runnersup with two champions. Zach Figart, the 2019 Class 4 champ at 220, pinned Daniel Ramirez in two minutes and Byrd sophomore Hunter Richards ended the tournament with a 22-5 major decision over Nick Estes of Magna Vista at 285. Figart is now 25-1 and Richards is 33-3.

Derek Burton also made the final at 113 but settled for second when he lost to JB Dragovich of Hidden Valley. Derek is 22-4.

Derek Burton is in control in his 113 lb. match. (photos by Kymn Davidson-Hamley)

Four more Terriers wrestled in the consolation round, qualifying for state, and three won. Chris Jimenez(20-11) won at 106 and Gavin Ellis(24-20) won at 120, both by pin. Freshman Xavier Preston(27-12) won a 4-0 decision at 145 after returning from an injury layoff. Jerze Webb(27-9) lost a close one at 160 to Trey Thomasson of Staunton River, 9-8, but Jerze still advanced to state with a fourth place finish.

Byrd’s Chris Jiminez battles in the 106 lb. class at last weekend’s Region 3D tournament in Christiansburg.

Kessler has high hopes for seeing some Terriers on the medal stand Saturday night.

“We’re hoping that returning state champion Zach Figart can repeat as state champ at 220,” he said. “Derek Burton is looking to build off of his fifth place finish last year and make a run at the title.  Sophomore Hunter Richards will see a familiar foe from Rockbridge in the quarterfinals if both win their first . He has been Hunter’s only losses of the year.”

Kessler feels like the region third and fourth place winners all have a chance to do well.

“Jerze Webb will look to make a run. If he keeps wrestling the way he is he could make some noise. Xavier Preston competed for the first time since injuring his shoulder in January at the Big Blue. He wrestled his tail off in the Regional tournament and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. Chris Jimenez looks to capitalize on his third opportunity at the state tournament.  Chris has qualified the last two years while at Broadway High School.

“First time qualifier 120 Gavin Ellis has started to peak at the right time.  He continues to get better every practice and we are excited to see what he will do out on the mat.”

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