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Jake Semones wins Big Orange again

Spartans take 8th, Grundy wins

The Salem wrestlers finished eighth among 17 teams in the Big Orange Classic wrestling tournament at William Byrd High last weekend. Grundy won the tournament and Franklin County was second.

Salem's Jake Semones(left) looks for an opening in his semifinal win over Victor Montalbano of Brookville in the Big Orange 215 pound semifinal match. Photo by Brian Hoffman
Salem's Jake Semones(left) looks for an opening in his semifinal win over Victor Montalbano of Brookville in the Big Orange 215 pound semifinal match. Photo by Brian Hoffman

“When I looked at the seedings, there were almost no wrestlers with losing records in the tournament from any team,” said Salem’s Robert Haynie, who coaches the Lord Botetourt team. “That tells me there wasn’t a weak team in the entire tournament. Grundy and Franklin County dominated but everyone else was good to very good.”

Grundy dominated with 259 points and had eight wrestlers in the finals, including seven straight champions from 112 to 145. Franklin County was next with 217, followed by Brookville and three Blue Ridge teams, Staunton River, Northside, and Lord Botetourt. Hidden Valley, who won the Titan Toughman and Highlander Invitational, finished one spot ahead of Salem in seventh.

“We had two goals,” said Salem coach Randall Sell. “We wanted to place in the top 10 as a team and we wanted to place four wrestlers in the top four.”

Salem accomplished both goals, and even had a champion. Jake Semones won his third straight Big Orange championship at 215, and Salem also took two thirds and a fourth.

Semones met Northside’s Ryan Moran in the final in a battle of two unbeatens. Jake came out on top, 6-3, to improve to 20-0 on the season. He also had a tough match in the semifinals, where he edged Brookville’s Victor Montalbano in a grueling overtime marathon.

“He toughed it out,” said Sell. “At that point everyone’s hurtin’, and it comes down to who’s mind will break first. Once the mind breaks, the body breaks.”

Chad Conner and Devin Smith both took thirds. Conner, who is now 19-4, lost to the eventual winner, Dakota Vance of Grundy, in the 130 pound semifinal. Chad then wrestled back to win the consolation final, 3-2, over Josh Altice of Franklin County.

Smith has only been wrestling since Christmas after suffering a leg injury late in the football season. He also lost to the eventual winner, Dustin Kidd of Staunton River, before wrestling back at 189. Devin pinned Zach Johnson of William Byrd in the consolation final in 4:42.

“He brings a lot of intensity to the mat,” said Sell. “He gets right in your face. I like that intensity.”

Forrest Short placed fourth at 171 after losing in the semifinal to Jonathan Jones of Franklin County, who was also the eventual winner. Forrest is now 16-5.

“I thought we had a pretty good tournament,” said Sell. “We got to see Grundy, who is in our region. That was good for us.”

Salem had a Tuesday match with William Fleming, and this Saturday they’re in the Knights’ Invitational at James River. This year 12 teams are entered, including host James River, Lord Botetourt, Randolph Henry, Amelia County, Appomattox, Radford, Bassett, Virginia Episcopal School, Alleghany, Staunton River, and Martinsville.

Weigh-in is at 7:30 am with wrestling to begin at 9:30 am. The double elimination tournament will run continuously until the championship round. Tickets are $7 for the entire day.

“It’s a good tournament for us to be in right before the district,” said Sell. “James River has a very good team. We have a shot, but it will be tough not having a full lineup.”

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