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Forty-eight of the top high school wrestling programs and 20 of the top college teams in the nation will descend upon the Hampton Coliseum on Friday and Saturday for the 2016 Virginia Duals, one of the largest wrestling tournaments in the nation.
The tournament, which draws teams and athletes from across the commonwealth and nation, will feature two Historic Triangle teams this year competing in the Black & Blue High School Division, which is reserved for regional high schools.
Lafayette and York will be representing the Historic Triangle in the upcoming Virginia Duals, with the Rams taking on third-seeded Oscar Smith in the first round and York taking on No. 7 Grassfield.
But for both Lafayette and York, the experience of wrestling in the Virginia Duals and having the opportunity to witness top wrestlers in person is almost as important as any win.
“One of the main reasons I sign my kids up is because they get to see the college wrestlers,” said Lafayette Coach Chris Wiatt. “They get their chance to keep their eyes on Virginia Tech and other Virginia wrestlers and see what they do, and be around people that aren’t on the same level as them, a much higher level.”
The desired result, he said, is having a wrestler become inspired by seeing different wrestling styles used by more talented wrestlers and improving their work ethic with a hope of one day advancing to that level.
While at the Virginia Duals, it’s likely Lafayette and York wrestlers will be doing more watching than wrestling – and that’s perfectly fine with Wiatt and York Coach Ryan Vottero.
“The Virginia Duals are going to be some long days for my team even if we aren’t wrestling,” Vottero said. “We are going to watch some National Division and then we’ll watch some college wrestling. That’s a great experience for the younger guys who have never seen college wrestling and how it differs from high school wrestling.”
That’s not to suggest neither team is there to compete and attempt advancing in the tournament. As with many teams, winning is still the goal at the end of the day regardless of the opponent.
Individual wrestlers from Lafayette and York are bound to win some of their bouts, but defeating a team in a dual is different animal from a normal match.
Wrestlers are often asked to switch around weight classes to take advantage of perceived holes in the opponent’s lineup. Also, each wrestler will need to be on top of their game in order to collect enough points for the team to earn the victory.
It’s a tall task, especially when paired up against some of the top teams in the region. But wrestling is like any other sport in that upsets are never out of the realm of possibility, especially at the high school level.
“I teach my kids anything can happen on any day,” Vottero said. “My goal is to win as many as we can.”
For more information about the Virginia Duals, click here.