George Mason High School’s famed wrestler, David Ray, easily captured his 152-pound weight class, Jake Schwind (171) came in second and Manuel Veiga-Diaz (189) placed third at the Group A Region B wrestling tournament last Saturday, Feb. 14 at Cumberland High School.
All three advance to the Group A state tournament Friday and Saturday, Feb. 20 and 21, in Salem, Va. Ray cruised to his second Region B championship with an impressive performance at 152 pounds. He won his first match against Wilson Memorial’s John Garrison by pin in 52 seconds, his semi-final bout against Rob Howe of Manassas Park 12-4 and easily beating Stonewall Jackson’s Mikie McCabe in the finals 9-2.
Last year, Ray won the title at 140. Schwind found the going a little rough at 171, however. He cruised through his first two matches, beating Appomatox’s Dan Williams 16-1 and pinning Randolph-Henry’s Dante Stoval in 5:15, before losing in the finals 8-4 to Joseph Cash of Riverheads. Cash, who was last year’s state runner-up at 171, is currently ranked number one in the state. At 189, Veiga-Diaz pinned Stonewall Jackson’s Mike Tisinger at the 4:53 mark to claim third place and top off his comeback from an opening round 4-2 loss to Tisinger. After losing in the first round, Veiga-Diaz pinned Dan Farry of Madison and Mike Donovan of Wilson Memorial to set up the rematch.
When the pairings first came out for the Region B wrestling tournament, Head Coach Bryan Harris knew that they would need a little bit of luck for all six of Mason’s regional qualifiers to make it to the state tournament. He wasn’t too worried about his experienced leaders, Ray, Schwind and Veiga-Diaz, but it was Jackson Thomas, Alborz Alaeddini and Teddy Rueckert who were facing long odds in their quest to advance. He knew they would have to wrestle their best and catch a few breaks along the way in order to make the trip. When it was all over, Harris was impressed with the performances of his entire group and only mildly disappointed that the extra luck had not materialized. Despite what Harris called “their best matches of the season by far,” Thomas, Alaeddini and Rueckert were eliminated from post season competition.
“I was extremely impressed with how well Jackson, Alborz and Teddy wrestled,” said Harris. “It was just a matter of running into guys who were better than them. All you can ask for is to be at the top of your game at an event like this and they were. It just happens that their best wasn’t good enough this time around. They all will be back next year and we are confident that then it will be their turn to be the ones to advance.”
Of special note was the appearance of former Mason wrestling star Joey Cohe at the tournament. Cohe, who is rehabbing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. from wounds received while on patrol in Iraq, was granted special permission to travel to Cumberland and join the Mason coaching staff on the sidelines for the tournament. Sporting a black cane and slight limp, Cohe was his usual energetic and upbeat self as he exhorted the Mason contingent throughout the day. It is rumored he may be able to secure another special leave to cheer on the three Mason wrestlers at the state tournament.
The Group A state tournament will take place this Friday and Saturday at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va. Wrestling starts at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 20.