Tyler Love remembered the disappointment that followed him out of Hayfield Secondary School’s gym last February. A third-place finish in the Northern Region finals might have been a fine accomplishment for most wrestlers, but it didn’t sit well with Centreville’s 182-pound grappler.
“I didn’t have a very good tournament,” Love recalled.
A year later, Love walked away from the same stage with an entirely different feeling. Competing under the bright lights of his own school’s gym this time, the Centreville junior emerged as the region meet’s most dominant wrestler on Sunday, the only one to pin all four of his opponents en route to the 195-pound title.
Love’s dominance culminated in his final bout against Lake Braddock senior Ian Reilly, the area’s most highly touted competitor in the 195-pound class. Love initiated his high-crotch takedown two-and-a-half minutes into the match, pinning Reilly to the mat to record the first fall of the finals. The move secured Love’s first regional crown and earned him the distinction of the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
“Ian’s a real tough kid, ranked pretty high,” Love said. “I haven’t seen anybody like that lately, so that felt real good and was a good confidence booster.”
Love will carry that confidence into this weekend’s 6A state tournament at Robinson Secondary. A linebacker on Centreville’s state championship football team, he aims to repeat the feat on the mat Saturday evening.
“I would say wrestling is less pressure because that’s only you,” said Love, a University of Virginia wrestling commit. “You’re playing football, you could miss a tackle and let down the team. I like the individual aspect because if you mess up or if you do great, it’s all on you.”
Chantilly senior Walter Carlson was another first-time region champion able to overcome last year’s disappointment. Carlson entered his bout against Madison’s Connor Eckhardt in the 145-pound final as his school’s all-time wins leader (141), but he had yet to clear the last hurdle at regionals. Westfield’s Beau Donahue, a three-time region champion now wrestling at N.C. State, pinned Carlson in last year’s final. With Donahue out of the picture this year, the two-time district champion rolled to a 10-4 decision over Eckhardt to claim his long-awaited prize.
Chantilly, a surprise winner at the NOVA Classic earlier this season, finished the meet in seventh place. The Chargers demonstrated strength all over the mat this year, including an impressive regional tournament effort from sophomore Manny Mugoya, a second-year wrestler one win away from placing in the 152-pound category.
“In past years, Chantilly has been kind of a weak team, and this year we’ve far surpassed any other Chantilly team I’ve been on,” Carlson said. “So being on this team has been a great way to end my career.”
South County senior Hunter Manley grabbed his third regional title with a 3-2 decision over Robinson’s Austin Riggs in the 132-pound class. A 5-foot-6 grappler in the 106-pound category his freshman year, Manley used his lanky 5-11 frame as leverage against the shorter Riggs, who he’s trained alongside for years but had never competed against in an official high school match prior to Sunday.
“I’ve been using my length all the way through high school,” Manley said. “I just consistently do off-season work and I don’t play any other sports. In the off-season I’m wrestling three to four days a week and still doing tournaments, so that helps a lot.”
Once again, it was Riggs and the rest of his Robinson teammates who got the last laugh Sunday. The Rams defended their region title with nine finalists and seven champions, compiling a 257.5 total that stood well clear of runner-up Battlefield (147.5) and third-place Osbourn Park (136.5).
Lake Braddock finished in fourth place. Sophomore Dante Wiles earned his first regional title with a 10-3 decision over Robinson’s Sam Book in the 106-pound final, while Virginia Tech commit Ryan Haskett edged Westfield’s Gabe Ryan 4-3 to take top honors in the 120-pound class. The Bruins will send six wrestlers to states.
Robinson will look to garner its third state championship in the last four years when they host this weekend’s meet. Finals are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday.