Eight local wrestlers will face the best in the nation this week at the NHSCA High School Wrestling Championships in Virginia Beach, Va.
Nation Ford is sending seven wrestlers and Fort Mill is sending one to the competition March 28-30. Wrestlers are seeded against others in their grade. The tournament is double elimination.
The Falcons are sending three high school wrestlers and four middle school wrestlers. Fort Mill will be represented by freshman AJ Leitten, who is a previous national champion from 2011.
“He has developed dramatically since then,” said Fort Mill coach Chris Brock. “I feel good about his chances to win. It’s going to be tough. But he can certainly make a lot of noise there.”
Leitten will compete in the freshman division at 106 pounds. Through this week there were 93 wrestlers signed up in his weight class, including 13 state champions.
The seven wrestlers are the most the Falcons have ever sent. The three high school wrestlers are freshmen Jeremy Kishbaugh and TJ Giarratana, who will compete at 113 and 120 pounds, respectively. Junior Robert Land will be the oldest of the local wrestlers and will wrestle at 145 pounds.
Nation Ford will also send eighth-graders Brody Parks and Josh Paxtor and seventh-graders Jacob Moore and Wesley Johnson. The middle school portion of the tournament will be March 29-30.
Falcons’ coach Leon Boulware said he feels optimistic about his wrestlers’ chances, but knows it is mostly a learning experience.
“I just want them to get mat time and see different types of wrestling,” Boulware said. “If we come back with a couple All-Americans that will be great. We are just trying to get them to learn to compete in the toughest tourney around.”
A wrestler can achieve All-American status if he finishes in the top eight.