Crouched low and grimacing through his headgear, Colonial Forge junior Willie Johnson quickly spun out of Culpeper senior Jason Patton's grasp late in the third period of the 215-pound final of the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region wrestling championships at Franklin County High today. The move earned Johnson two points and a 5-4 win, a climactic ending to a dominant performance by Colonial Forge.
The top-ranked Eagles ran away with the regional title, taking first place with 247 points. Stonewall Jackson finished in second place with 159.5 points and Woodbridge finished third with 130.
Twelve area wrestlers qualified for the Virginia AAA tournament, scheduled for next weekend at Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake.
Five Colonial Forge wrestlers -- sophomore Matt Taylor (119 pounds), junior Jay Chichester (130 pounds), senior Scott Fischer (152 pounds), senior Dale Pellar and Johnson (215 pounds) -- won individual titles.
Colonial Forge, which finished second in the state tournament last year, will look to capture its first state title in school history, despite having five key seniors from last year's team graduate.
"To be the best you have to beat the best, so we're really happy with this," said Johnson, who is 30-11 this season. "Everyone thought that we were going to drop off from being a powerhouse after we lost those five seniors, and we felt like we had to prove a point."
Sophomore Nathaniel Barbee (103 pounds), junior Brian Graney (125 pounds) and senior Mark LaRochelle (135 pounds) won individual championships for Stonewall Jackson.
In only his third match back since spraining his right ankle, Graney defeated Woodbridge senior Michael Gagnon, 18-6.
"I just really tried to block out the pain," said Graney, who finished eighth in the state tournament last year, and was 28-4 this season. "I didn't even know it was hurting until after the match."
LaRochelle defeated North Stafford's David Emison, 7-5, in an extra period, and will be making his third appearance in the state tournament. In their first meeting this season, LaRochelle lost, 2-0, but was able to score two points early into the fourth period for the win.
"I usually try to scout my opponents, so I changed my style to adjust to each opponent," said LaRochelle, who will wrestle for Davidson College next season. "I changed my stance, and it worked much better."
Several other area wrestlers came away with individual titles as well. Osbourn Park junior Jeremy Adams defeated Hylton junior Lam Ly, 5-4, in the 112-pound division. Gar-Field sophomore Mark Logan won the heavyweight division, Sherando senior Chris Hottel won the 140-pound division, Brooke Point senior Brian Foley won the 145-pound category and North Stafford senior Kyle Maclaird won the 171-pound final, despite suffering from a bleeding ulcer in his small intestine, which sometimes limits his practice activity.
"I don't really see it as much of a challenge," Maclaird said. "I don't really like feeling sorry for myself, I guess you just have to roll with the punches."
Woodbridge senior Bubba Bush continued his undefeated streak, beating Colonial Forge senior Evan Stribling in the 189-pound final. Woodbridge had four wrestlers qualify for the state tournament.