Robinson's Adam Fassnacht and Herndon's Eric Zakrzewski each captured individual titles at the Virginia AAA tournament last Saturday, highlighting a weekend that concluded with the Northern Region's best showing in years.
Seven Northern Region wrestlers reached the championship finals at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, and its two champions were the most since 2000. In all, 27 Northern Region wrestlers earned medals, surpassing last season's mark of 21. Four Northern Virginia teams placed in the top ten -- the most in at least four years.
Great Bridge again dominated the tournament, winning five individual titles en route to its sixth straight title and 12th in 13 years. No. 6 Robinson finished tied for fifth with Stonewall Jackson with 63 points. No. 4 Hayfield and No. 5 Herndon tied for seventh with 62 points, and Madison rounded out the top 10 with 45 points.
"It's an improvement over what we've had over the past few years in terms of number of medalists," said Hayfield Coach Roy Hill. "I think it is an improvement in the quality of wrestlers in this area. We have a lot of teams going out of town to face tougher competition, so I think that showed in the results."
Northern Region finalists included: Edison senior Sam Alvarenga (135 pounds), Fairfax junior Joe Fitterer (145), Westfield senior Chris Goings (160), Mount Vernon senior Rob Valentine (189) and Centreville senior Brendan Raedy (215).
Alvarenga nearly pulled off an upset over Great Bridge defending champion Donnie Ooton before falling 7-5 in overtime. Alvarenga (41-1) earned a reversal to take a 5-4 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the third period before Ooton tied the score with an escape with just five seconds left. In overtime, Ooton scored a takedown with just 20 seconds left for the win.
"I should have just held on [for the win], but we were both so sweaty and slippery it was tough to keep a grip," said Alvarenga, who placed third in the state last season.
Fitterer's second-place finish completed a remarkable two-week run that began when he won his first Northern Region title on Feb.
22. Fitterer (30-3) lost a tight 9-6 championship match to Great Bridge defending champion Hunter Davenport after defeating Northwestern Region champion Brian Foley, 3-0, in the semifinals.
Goings also faced a sizeable challenge against Great Bridge defending champion Ajay Foreman. Goings (48-1) kept the match within a couple of points through the first two periods but couldn't keep pace with Foreman in the third, losing a 10-2 major decision.
"Chris has worked real hard and dedicated himself to wrestling since I've gotten to know him [three years ago]," Westfield Coach Chuck Hoskins said. "Chris stuck to our plan pretty well, but once Ajay got a set of back points [against Goings] his confidence shot up and changed the complexion of the match."
Valentine also completed a tremendous two-week run with a tough championship defeat. Valentine, who won the Northern Region title the previous weekend with a dramatic, final-second pin over Robinson's Brent Jones, fell to Great Bridge two-time champion Patrick Bond in the final, 20-7.
Fassnacht and Raedy met in a rematch of the Northern Region final. After edging Raedy, 5-3, to win the region title, Fassnacht won another tight match, 3-2, to claim the state title.
For Fassnacht and Zakrzewski, winning state titles capped special high school wrestling careers.
Zakrzewski won his second straight title, and Fassnacht earned a championship in a third sport, adding the wrestling crown to his football and lacrosse championships.
"My body is beginning to ache from all the way back in football season," said Fassnacht, who took one day off after football season but plans to relax for a week before beginning lacrosse practice.
"This [championship] was definitely the hardest."