A local wrestling club has attracted young athletes from a variety of ages and locations to Culpeper County.
The Culpeper Warriors Wrestling Club, led by Culpeper High School wrestling coach Alex Csontos, features an eclectic mix of youngsters ranging from the seventh to twelfth grades. Some of them are Culpeper residents, while others travel from neighboring counties like Madison and Spotsylvania to train and compete with Csontos’s group.
“The idea behind our club is that our athletes are pursuing not just the high school and middle school seasons, but are going all the way through the whole year to go to national-level competitions,” Csontos said. “At that level, it’s all about representing Team Virginia.”
The “Team Virginia” Csontos speaks of is essentially the Virginia Wrestling Association, or VAWA for short. Athletes competing in national meets represent the VAWA at those events.
A handful of Warriors have had the opportunity to do just that in recent months.
In March, Alivia Loveless and Taylor Waddy competed in the USA Wrestling (USAW) Folkstyle Nationals in Oklahoma, with each of them finishing in second place in their respective classes against other middle school wrestlers from across the nation.
“I felt like I performed pretty well,” said Loveless, now a rising freshman at Eastern View High School. “Obviously the goal is to finish first the next time I go.”
Waddy, a rising seventh-grader at Post Oak Middle School in Spotsylvania, said she surpassed her own expectations at the meet, which was her first trip to a competition of that size and magnitude. As a result, she arrived in Oklahoma with a stomach full of butterflies.
“Even though I’ve been wrestling for almost two years now, I was actually really nervous about [going],” she said. “[Coach Csontos] talked me into it though. I did really well in my first couple of matches, and things went up from there.”
Callie Jones, a rising sophomore at Culpeper, also competed at the March tournament. Facing some of the top high school wrestlers in the country, she said the experience she gained from the event was the most valuable thing she brought home with her.
“This was my first year going to one of these meets, so I didn’t necessarily expect to place,” Jones said. “I went for more of a learning experience than anything else, and it was great to see all of the talent there. I aspire to be an All-American like they are one day.”
In July, Culpeper High students Stephan Csontos and Trinity Berry both participated in the USAW Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
Csontos, Alex’s son and a rising sophomore, expressed a similar sentiment to Jones’s in regard to his experience on the big stage.
“As far as my individual performance, I didn’t do too well,” Csontos remarked. “But I learned a lot, and I’m hoping to do better next year.”
Berry, a rising senior, placed fourth in the freestyle division, which means that she is now considered the No. 4 freestyle wrestler in the nation out of all high school girls. She said a single-minded, straightforward approach is what led to her success.
“All I was worried about at [Fargo] was the next match,” she said. “I wasn’t worried about who the opponent was, what her seed was, or anything about her. It was all about my next move, what was in front of me and what I could control.”
Two other interesting members of the Culpeper club are siblings Virginia “Belle” Foard and her younger brother Lane, of Reva.
Earlier this summer, Virginia finished second in the nation at the Cadet World Team Trials for freestyle wrestling, which earned her a spot in the Cadet Pan American Championships in Mexico in late-June. Once there, she won the tournament for her class among girls under the age of 16.
Virginia, who will be attending Wyoming Seminary Upper School in Kingston, Pa. as a high school freshman this fall, said she still has plenty of room to grow as a wrestler despite her success.
“I just need to continue to wrestle and continue to get better,” she said. “I did well in [Mexico], but there’s always room to improve and to learn more.”
Wyoming Seminary’s wrestling program serves as a development program for the U.S. Olympic Team.
Lane Foard is a rising seventh-grader who is currently homeschooled. He competes in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. During July’s national tournament for middle-schoolers, he went 6-0 in Greco-Roman competition and 5-2 during the freestyle portion of the event.
“My goal was to go undefeated in Greco, so I was pretty happy about that,” he said. “Overall, I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot during the tournament.”
Lane’s dominating effort earned him a spot on the USAW’s all-tournament team at the conclusion of the proceedings.
While all of the accolades are impressive, at the end of the day Csontos is just happy to see his club members growing both as wrestlers and individuals.
“It’s all about going to these events and competing,” he said. “And if you work hard, represent yourself and those around you to the best of your ability and give it everything you’ve got against the best competition in the nation, that’s all anyone can ask of you.”