North Stafford wrestling Coach Tony Leonard sat down with senior Kevin Collier before the season and explained to the defending Virginia AAA champion the pressures that come with being the wrestler to beat.
"I told him to keep his head level, and that he will have to bring his 'A match' every time he goes out," Leonard said.
Collier apparently has taken that talk to heart, beginning the season 12-0 after rolling undefeated through the Western Branch Rotational Saturday in Chesapeake, Va. Collier was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler after winning the 171-pound weight class with a 9-0 record. Collier's undefeated record was hardly in jeopardy Saturday: His closest match was a 15-6 major decision against Great Bridge's Joey Patterson. Collier and Patterson are ranked 1-2 in the state in their weight class.
Last season, Collier won the state championship despite winning neither the district nor the regional tournament. Winning all three is Collier's goal this year, Leonard said.
"He's pretty focused this year," Leonard said. "I told him they are going to come after him this year, and he is going to have to be on his toes. He just nodded and said he is aware of that."
North Stafford's season hasn't started as well as Collier's. The Wolverines were ranked third in The Post's preseason poll, but three key wrestlers got off to a late start because of the football season, and a tough early schedule has left the team 4-8 overall.
The Wolverines finished eighth as a team at Western Branch with a 4-5 record. Great Bridge won the tournament, followed by Cox, Western Branch and Hickory. All four schools are among the top teams in Virginia.
Senior Chris Ashinhurst, junior Darrell Wolfe and sophomore Chris Ciecanowski are among the team's top wrestlers, but the trio has been limited since joining the team two weeks ago.
The slow start, however, is of little concern to Leonard.
"It's not hurting us other than our record," he said. "I'm more concerned about us getting mat time. . . . We wrestle all the way until [late] February. Not having a great record in December doesn't concern me. I'm more concerned about their conditioning and getting some mat time."
* STRONG START: Colonial Forge wrestling bears little resemblance to a typical first-year program. The Eagles improved to 9-2 on the season after winning their first tournament in school history at the Louisa Invitational.
Colonial Forge edged Broadway, 330 1/2-328, in the nine-team tournament--thanks in part to three wrestlers who advanced to the state tournament last season with their previous schools. Jayson Jurek--a junior transfer who finished second in the state with North Stafford last season--won the 135-pound division, and junior Kyle Graham--who finished second with Gar-Field last year--won the 119-pound division. Chris Fulmer--another transfer from North Stafford who qualified for the state tournament last season--placed second in the 152-pound division.
"To be in a first-year school and to have kids like that, you're lucky," Colonial Forge Coach Bill Swink said. "They're successful kids, and hopefully having them around will raise everyone else's level also. . . . They expect to be successful, and they expect everyone else to be successful. And [people] always say, success breeds success."
A pleasant surprise for Colonial Forge this year has been sophomore heavyweight Chuck Brown, who improved to 10-0 this season after winning the division at the Louisa Invitational.
* OSBOURN REBOUNDS: Osbourn's boys and girls swim teams bounced back from lopsided losses last week to Woodbridge--the defending Cardinal District girls champion--to defeat Potomac. The boys won, 113-52, and the girls also won big, 136-28.
The girls team was led by sophomores Shannon Woolard and Kendall Hollinger, who won two events apiece. Woolard won the 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke, and Hollinger won the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle.
"They are two good solid swimmers I know I can depend on," Osbourn Coach Harry DeLong said of Woolard and Hollinger--both of whom qualified for the Virginia AAA state meet last season. "They've always contributed."
Osbourn--whose boys and girls teams placed second in the Cardinal District last season--will face Hylton next week. The Bulldogs are the defending boys champion.
* INDIANS UNDEFEATED: The Gar-Field boys team remained unbeaten after defeating Stonewall Jackson, 159-127. Tim Brulle led the Indians, winning both the 50 and 100 freestyle. Team records were set by Matt Beaugh (100 butterfly), Brett MacLennan (100 breaststroke) and Chris Glyer, MacLennan, Beaugh and Andrew Hicks (boys medley relay).
Stonewall Jackson defeated Gar-Field in the girls meet, 151-135.