Things didn’t look so bright for Matoaca wrestling during the regular season.
People said that their run was over. Some even said they felt as though new coach Hal Miles had allowed the program to decline.
If you formed either of these opinions during the season, you were wrong. Matoaca pulled off a seemingly improbable three peat and claimed their third consecutive 5A State Championship on the last match of the night, with heavyweight Anthony “Shan” Helm claimed what was also his third straight state championship.
“We had a plan the whole time,” said Matoaca coach Hal Miles. “It’s just the type of thing that takes a while, but we wanted to peak at the right time during the season.”
That plan was a calculated one, and it took some time to maintain. Miles’ blueprint was to A) get everyone conditioned the way he wanted and B) to get everyone in the right weight class.
In the beginning of the season, team members went through a workout that included 100 jumping jacks, 50 push ups, 50 mountain climbers and 15 jack knives. By mid-season, Miles had the team doing 800 jumping jacks, 400 push-ups, 400 mountain climbers and 125 jack knives. If you feel tired, you’re not alone.
The second part of the plan was getting everyone into the right weight classes. If someone loses weight too quickly, they risk losing muscle. If you gain too much muscle, you gain too much wait.
Among the other things wrestlers do to their bodies to prepare, this was the most important and took most of the season to accomplish. Early on, the Warriors racked up losses while everyone got their bodies in shape.
“Guys started off the season out of place and we look some losses for that,” Miles said. “Following the system properly didn’t allow them to be where they needed to be immediately.”
Then came the state tournament. With two projected All-State wrestlers in Helm and 113 pounder Brandon Woody, the Warriors had ground to make up. While it was though that Matoaca would place three wrestlers on the podium at tournament’s end, they placed six. Of the six, everyone finished in the top four and in addition to Helm, there were two new state champions in Sam Braswell (106) and Bryson Woody (152).
While Helm was generally considered a shoo-in to win, the rest of the wrestling world may have been surprised to see Braswell and Bryson Woody atop the podium. Miles saw the potential in Braswell, but like the rest of the team, the (year) had to get prepared. Following the necessary protocols, he was the best in his class this year.
Bryson Woody, a senior has had his issues with injuries, and had a Willis Reed (70s New York Knicks) type moment to qualify for the finals. During his last match on Friday, his opponent sat on his ankle. Miles heard the pop from about 30 feet away. As trainers rushed to Bryson, it was discovered that it was lower on his foot, and probably not anything extremely serious, so Miles asked trainers to keep his shoe on, opting for tape over Woody’s shoe. Despite the injury, he won the match in overtime.
“I kept thinking that this was his moment,” Miles said. “Since it was lower on the foot, I was okay for him to continue, it’s his senior year.”
After treatment into the night and through the day Saturday, Woody competed and won his state championship in overtime.
“Bryson [Woody] had a great match; he really did,” said Helm. “It takes a lot to fight through pain and injury and perform at the best of your ability.”
Other state places included a third place finish to junior Brandon Woody (113), a fourth place finish for freshman Noah Roulo (126) and a fourth place finish for Alvonte Jones (195). As it turns out, the way that points were earned by the team turned out to be exactly the correct amount needed to edge out second place Hickory, 109.5-105.
Hard work paid for this for a squad that on paper, was a bit less talented than last year’s. Wait until next season.
Warriors’ top finishers by class
106 pound – Sam Braswell (champ)
113 pound – Brandon Woody (third)
126 pound – Noah Roulo (fourth)
152 pound – Bryson Woody (champ)
195 pound – Alvonte Jones (fourth)
285 pound – Anthony Helm (champ)