The Matoaca Warriors wrestling program reached a lofty goal set after last season ended. Saturday at Robinson High School, Matoaca repeated as 5A State Champions. The gradual improvement of a program has begun to bloom into a dynasty.
“The first one was a history making one, we didn’t have one at the school,” Matoaca Wrestling Head Coach Michael Moore said. “We didn’t know if it was luck so we had to win another one to show everyone that it wasn’t just luck.”
This year’s team excelled on both an individual and team basis. Individual champions included Brandon Woody (106 pounds), Neal Richards (152 pounds) and Anthony “Shaun” Helm at 285 pounds. Woody, a sophomore, earned his first individual state championship, while it was Helm’s (a junior) second and Richards’ fourth. The championships gave Richards a clean sweep for his high school career, while Helm will have the opportunity next year to win his third straight. Senior Yamique Webb rebounded from a loss in the 5A South Region Final to place third in the state at 160 pounds.
“This team works hard,” said Moore in an interview earlier this year. “From first to last we emphasize that level of hard work in the classroom and on the mat.”
Some championship stories include many instances where the team had to overcome obstacles to reach the top of the mountain. For Matoaca, the first was losing Bryson Woody at 138 pounds, who was considered a contender for a state title. Being a deep team, Matoaca still put 11 of 12 weight classes in the conference finals, with six that made it through to state including Adam Wilmer and Joseph Nicholson, who fell in the quarterfinals.
“Injuries brought us closer together,” Moore explained. “Our guys didn’t get weaker, they got stronger.”
Individually, Neal Richards will go down as one of the finest athletes in Matoaca history with a lifetime record of (190-7) en route to four state championships. The Matoaca coaching staff suggested he is just one of four athletes to accomplish a clean sweep of state championships. His services are being sought after by many colleges and universities and he figures to be able to wrestle just about anywhere he wants collegially.
“Neal is a magnificent kid,” Moore said. “He came in, worked hard at practice, left practice and then worked hard some more.”
Helm was a leader this year and will be again next season. Also a beast at defensive tackle on the gridiron with a four-plus grade point average, the junior will have a plethora of schools to choose from, whether wrestling or playing football.
Moore and his coaching staff are already looking forward to next season, as a strong nucleus will return. Along with Helm and Nicholson, both Woody brothers, Sam Braswell, Markus Taborn, Alvonte Jones, and Matthew Lockhart will return next year.
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