Robinson’s 2011 Virginia AAA state wrestling title didn’t come easily. With a home crowd cheering on their every move, the host Rams were propelled by a controversial triple overtime decision that earned Jake Smith the 119-pound title. That result joined Brooks Martino’s 135-pound triumph and three second-place finishes to give Robinson a 155.5-125 edge on Frank W. Cox High, handing the Rams their first team victory in the state competition since 1985.
Robinson grapplers repeated the feat last Saturday in Virginia Beach, although in less dramatic fashion. The Rams only saw three of their wrestlers reach championship matches this time around, but all nine of their competitors placed inside the top seven of their respective weight classes. The depth and balance that has emboldened Robinson throughout the season carried them to a convincing 142.5-101 advantage over second-place Westfield. Thus the state trophy was theirs for the second time in three years.
“It just means the world to me,” said Jake Pinkston, the team’s heavyweight junior. “The whole team has been working hard this whole year, really putting the time in. It just feels good that it paid off in the end.”
After seeing two of his teammates fall in championship matches, Pinkston held off Matoaca’s Anthony Helm in the 285-pound final to emerge as Robinson’s only individual state champion. The Rams entered those final matches with a 41.5-point lead, all but securing the title before Pinkston even had to take the mat for his last match.
Jack Bass, also a junior, was beaten by Grassfield’s Taylor Misuna, 3-1, on a last second takedown in the 152-pound final. Bass, the Northern Region 152-pound champion who also finished runner-up in the state tournament his freshman year, finished the season with a 34-3 record. Cole DePasquale went 3-1 in the tournament and lost a 5-2 decision to Forest Park’s Brett Stein in the 170-pound final.
“You walk out of there Saturday really happy about getting the trophy, but I think as a coach we always have sympathy and are more worried about the kids who maybe didn’t reach their goals,” Robinson coach Bryan Hazard said. “I’ve been in the state finals and lost in the state finals, so I understand what it’s like... But there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, and to walk out of there knowing that you’ve met your team goal is a big deal.”
Austin Riggs went 5-1 in the 126-pound class to give Robinson its sole third-place finish in the competition. Important points were also racked up by fourth-place finishers Dallas Smith at 138 and Zak DePasquale at 160, in addition to a fifth-place finish by Greyson Olimpo at 106 and a sixth-place finish by Daniel Mika at 182. Dane Robbins came in seventh at 132.
For Robinson, last weekend’s meet was the culmination of a season that also saw them win the Concorde District and Northern Region championships. The Rams won those tournaments in much the same manner they did the state meet, relying more on solid performances from all of their grapplers than on spectacular performances from one or two studs. Seven of their nine finalists came up just short in the region meet, but the fact that they all got that far in the first place was enough to secure the team crown.
Those accomplishments were big, especially considering arch-rival Westfield had racked up eight of the previous nine Concorde titles and four of the previous five region trophies. Yet they weren’t as sweet as the state crown, which eluded Northern Region teams between 1985-2011. Taking down perennial powers like Great Bridge and Forest Park at the state level is something Robinson wrestlers work toward all year round.
“We start November with the focus on February,” said Hazard, a ’91 Robinson grad who began coaching the Rams in 1996. “So preparation starts on day one. We definitely train to compete every day for the state tournament. I don’t think we train any differently. We definitely have a way to try to peak our kids, but it’s no different this week than last week or the week before.”
Lake Braddock finished the state meet in seventh place, led by senior Rory Renzi’s first-place finish in the 160-pound class. It was the first individual state title for Renzi, who had finished in fifth place each of the previous three years. Teammate Sean Haskett took home a third-place finish in the 132-pound class, while his brother, Ryan, claimed fifth place at 113.
Mount Vernon finished in 10th place overall, coming away with an undefeated performance from Bill Adusei in the 126-pound class. Senior Beau Donahue was Westfield’s lone individual champion of the weekend, as he went 4-0 in the 145-pound class to secure his third straight season ending in a state title.
Senior Will Rupp completed his undefeated season with a title in the 220-pound class, making him the first state champion wrestler from West Potomac since 1987. Jefferson senior Patrick O’Connor finished runner-up at 195.