POWHATAN – They spun wildly in circles, with both wrestlers trying to win the advantage in the final match of the Region 4B tournament.
J.D. McMillin got there first.
The Powhatan senior took Eastern View’s Dillon Werth – the same wrestler who defeated him for the state title last year – down to the mat. The move gave McMillin two points, and the lead.
He never let it go.
Using a reversal, an escape and a near-fall to pull away, McMillin fended off a penalty, a takedown and a reversal to defeat Werth by a 7-5 decision and repeat as regional champion.
“I really knew that if I kept my mind straight and that I was focused on this match the right way I should’ve been, then I was gonna come out on top,” McMillin said. “Overall I’m gonna bring the same intensity from this week to next week to states, because this is my last year; I’m gonna finish out on top.”
McMillin’s victory capped a regionals competition that saw Powhatan win three individual titles and reach five finals matches. Overall, Powhatan had eight wrestlers qualify for the Class 4 state tournament. The Indians as a team placed second to Eastern View in the region.
“Next week we’ll figure out what we’ve got to do to get some more kids on the podium; last year we had four state placers which was a decent year…trying to do a little better there,” said Powhatan head wrestling coach Jonathan Tanaka. “I feel like we’re in a really good spot; we’re wrestling really well. Everybody’s healthy as we’re gonna be at this point.”
Powhatan sophomore Linwood Hill jumped out to a 4-0 lead en route to fending off Monacan’s A.J. Caijigas on a 5-4 decision at 220. His teammate Sean Hall, who had come back from a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season and had to wrestle up from his preferred 113 weight class, opened the finals on a 6-5 win by decision over Eastern View’s Johnny Laird in the 126-pound match.
“I was really nervous; I didn’t know how it was gonna go,” Hall said. “But I just felt good in the moment.”
Tanaka was pleased.
“Really proud of Sean Hall, who had to beat a very, very tough kid. … I thought he was phenomenal,” Tanaka said. “He proved himself there, so just happy for him.”
Hanover 160-pounder Josh Epperly won his first regional title by injury default over Courtland’s Christopher Reynolso, who briefly tried to wrestle following a leg injury he sustained during the match, but went down again in visible pain and was unable to continue.
“It didn’t end how I wanted it to. It only went half the distance, but it was still fun,” said Epperly, who is enjoying what he added is his “best season by far.”
Dinwiddie junior D’Anta Johnson, in his return to wrestling since middle school, won the heavyweight title by pinning Louisa County’s Cameron Hornsby.
“He gave me a headlock, so I took advantage … capitalized,” Johnson said.
The top four wrestlers from each weight class qualified for the Class 4 state meet. Wrestlers who placed fifth qualified as state alternates.
The VHSL Class 4 state wrestling championships take place Friday, Feb. 15, at Riverside High School in Leesburg and on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Robinson High School in Fairfax.
Nick Vandeloecht can be reached at email@example.com.