Stafford High School's holiday wrestling tournament begins today, giving a number of area teams an opportunity to work out the early-season kinks before league competition gets into full swing.
The two-day, 11-team Stafford Invitational, in its second year, is the first wrestling action most of the participating teams have had in nearly two weeks.
"That's one of the reasons we host it, because of the long break at Christmas time," said Stafford Coach Dicky Hall. "Most tournaments ended up just before Christmas time, and most kids have had a week or two weeks with no wrestling at all. Most coaches see this is as a good way to get back into the swing of the things."
The dual-match format gets underway today at 10 a.m. and will run until about 9 p.m. Thursday's schedule is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $6 for a single-day ticket or $10 for a two-day pass.
Seven area teams are competing: Brooke Point, Colonial Forge, Gar-Field, Hylton, Osbourn, Osbourn Park and Stafford. Most enter the invitational with a specific objective, whether it be getting young wrestlers a bit of experience or giving late-starting veterans a chance to catch up.
First-year school Colonial Forge has gotten off to a 10-2 start, including its first tournament championship at the Louisa Invitational Dec. 11. The Eagles have set their goals high again, with Coach Bill Swink expecting the team to finish no worse than 7-2. Colonial Forge should be led by its top three wrestlers--Kyle Graham (119 pounds), Jayson Jurek (135) and Chris Fulmer (152)--but Swink hopes to see good things from other wrestlers.
"We're expecting them to carry us," Swink said of Graham, Jurek and Fulmer. "But in dual meets, we need others to step up every time we go out there."
Hylton Coach Ron Kostrzebski hopes the tournament will provide some quality mat time to four Bulldogs who missed the beginning of the wrestling season while playing on Hylton's state champion football team. Sophomores Stephen Ball and Ben Harrison and juniors Jason Conlon and Sean Conlon did not begin practicing until three weeks ago and are still playing catch-up.
"They are about there," Kostrzebski said. "This holiday tournament should sharpen them up for the rest of the season."
Another team to watch is Brooke Point, led by undefeated sophomore Doug Kittell, who has won all 10 of his matches by pin.
Osbourn Park--a young team with just a handful of seniors--hopes to get a number of underclassmen some mat time.
"We're a very young team, and our expectation is simply to get better," said Yellow Jackets Coach Mike Faul, whose team has defeated Hylton and Potomac. "We want to get a lot of guys who aren't number one starters as much mat time as possible."