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RIDGEWAY –– As a freshman a year ago, Blake Bowman’s first varsity wrestling season was cut short by a shoulder injury. Bowman the sophomore is making the most of it this year.
Becoming a regional champion in his first opportunity to do so, Bowman claimed the 130-pound title Saturday in the Region IV tournament at Magna Vista.
Following a first-round bye, Bowman took care of Hidden Valley’s Munkush Jargalsaikhan in the championship quarterfinals with a second-period pin. Andrew Benitez of Cave Spring took Bowman to the wire in the semifinals before Bowman managed an 8-7 decision.
In the championship match, Bowman improved to 34-3 on the year with a 9-5 win over Christiansburg’s Brady Epperly.
Bowman will be joined in the state tournament by teammate Drew McCraw, who finished third in the 285 class. Despite clearly being the top two heavyweights in the region, preset pairings left McCraw and Andrew Miller of Bassett on the same side of the bracket, and the two met in the semifinals. Miller, ranked among the top 5 nationally in his division, pulled off a 5-2 win over McCraw en route to the regional championship.
McCraw worked his way back to the consolation finals by pinning Robert Dea of Abingdon in 38 seconds, then taking a 5-3 decision over Daniel Teal of Hidden Valley in the third-place match. McCraw had dropped Teal 5-2 in the second round.
Christiansburg, gunning for its eighth consecutive Group AA state championship, qualified all 14 wrestlers to the state tourney and breezed to the Region IV title with 334 points to runner-up Grundy’s 197. Hidden Valley (131.5), Abingdon (116.5) and Cave Spring (113) rounded out the top five. Carroll County placed ninth.
For a banjo picker, Grayson County’s Cody McGuire makes a pretty good wrestler.
McGuire, a 125-pounder for the Blue Devils and an accomplished bluegrass musician, defeated Northwood’s Ryan Lowery 4-2 to claim the region championship and lead a contingent of eight Twin County wrestlers in the Group A tournament following the Region C event Saturday at Northwood High School.
McGuire was joined in the finals by teammate Richard Pugh, who knocked off defending state champion William Saunders in the semifinals. Pugh gave up a first-period takedown and fell 2-1 to Glenvar’s Jason Ayers in the 135-pound finals.
Galax’s Eric Stowall finished second in the region in the 103-pound class after losing by fall to Kahlil Carazo of Glenvar in the championship match. Five Maroon Tide wrestlers reached the consolation finals, with two finishing third in the region. Edu Rojas pinned Northwood’s Alex Poe in the second period to take third place at 119 pounds, while Jose Rojas pinned Floyd County’s Dale Conner in 1:40 for a third-place finish at 130.
Jose Martinez finished fourth at 140 pounds after an 8-6 overtime loss to Trey Allen of Glenvar. Seth Criner was fourth at 160, falling 15-5 to Jay Clark of Radford 15-5, and Jay Miles placed fourth at 189 pounds, falling 7-5 to George Wythe’s Jonathan Turpin in the consolation finals.
Galax brought home a fourth-place finish in the team standings. Glenvar won the team title with 231.5 points, followed by Chilhowie (145), Radford (138.5), Galax (135) and Rural Retreat (126).
The Group A and Group AA state tournaments will run concurrently on eight mats at the Salem Civic Center beginning Friday morning. The tournament concludes Saturday night.