shurina

Eastern View’s Drew Shurina (left) gets ready to grapple with Liberty Christian’s Justin Phillips (right) during the championship match of their weight class (152).

As many times as Elijah White slipped through opponents’ hands during a dominant junior campaign, there was no escaping how it all ended.

A double-overtime loss in the 138-pound Class 5 state final—a match White had led throughout—left the Mountain View standout grappling with what he could have done differently.

“He still thinks about it and probably will for the rest of his life,” Wildcats coach Bud Black said. “But he’s determined to not even make it that close next year.”

Despite a precocious freshman season that included a Region 5A title, Brooke Point 126-pounder Chris Lee feels like he let down family and coaches alike by faltering in the state final.

“I’m trying to live up to those expectations, because everyone’s expecting me to take first place for the next three years,” Lee said.

Such painful proximity serves as a powerful motivator for White and Lee, who are among the top wrestlers on what could be the Fredericksburg area’s top two teams.

The incentive is twofold for a trio of Eastern View wrestlers. Seniors Dillon Werth, JJ Laird and Drew Shurina return to the mat looking to rectify not only narrow individual misses—but also the Cyclones’ runner-up finish in the Class 4 team standings.

“The guys are focused on avenging that, for sure,” Eastern View coach Eric Brown said. “The main thing these guys gotta do is just focus on their own preparation. Whoever’s standing in the way, you just gotta take ‘em out and be done with it.”

Coming off its third Class 5 team championship in as many years, Brooke Point must replace the production of the most accomplished senior class in school history. The new-look Black-Hawks feature a front-loaded lineup, headlined by defending state champion Bruno Alves at 120 pounds. Lee (126) and Justis Bell (132) are once again expected to contend at the state level.

Early-season trips to prestigious tournaments such as Beast of the East (Dec. 21-22) and War on the Shore (Jan. 17-18) should go a long way toward testing the Black-Hawks’ depth.

“A lot depends on whether we can stay healthy,” Brooke Point coach Travis Harris said. “Injuries are everything.”

By contrast, Mountain View graduated only one senior from a squad that placed seventh at states in 2018-19. Besides White, who will wrestle at 145 pounds, Dalton Arce (120), Joel Garza (170) and Stone Summers (220) offer experience as state placers. At 113 pounds, Ethan Heitchew is a defending regional champion.

“We look tough on paper, but unfortunately we have to wrestle on a mat,” Black said.

To that end, Black plans to lead Mountain View through a gauntlet of tournaments in stronghold states Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, something he did during his first coaching stint at the school back in 2005.

“It made wrestling a little bit easier when we got back to Virginia,” he recalled. “It’s going to be hard on them, but that’s what I want.”

EASTERN VIEW PREVIEW

Coach: Eric Brown

Last season: District and Region 4B champion, state runner-up

Top returners: Sr. Dalton Werth (126), Sr. J.J. Laird (132), Sr. Drew Shurina (160), Sr. C.J. Taylor (182), Jr. Griffin Smithers, So. Cam Sheads (138), Jr. Daniel Taylor.

Outlook: Three returning state runners-up (Werth, Laird and Shurina) figure to give the Cyclones a shot at regaining the state title they won in 2018. They were second to Great Bridge last year.

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Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045

jlomonaco@freelancestar.com

@joeylomonaco

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