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A.J. region champ among four FHS state qualifiers; Shurina, Smith second

You can thank excellent conditioning and dramatic timing for A.J. Farinella finally realizing his Region 2 wrestling dream.Farinella, Farragut senior in the 145-pound class finals, rallied from a 3-1 deficit with a two-point takedown in the final five seconds of regulation before claiming a 5-4 victory in triple overtime.

The win came against Silas Burchett of Greenback, 2007 region champ at 152, during the region tourney at Harriman High School Saturday, Feb. 9.

About his late-match surge, “I knew I was in good enough shape ... that’s where conditioning comes in,” said Farinella, who’s been consistently ranked in the top-five statewide this season. “I knew I needed something, and it just came. That was a big momentum swing. He was gasping.”

A third-place region finisher in each of his first three years at FHS, Farinella improved to 39-5 overall while boosting his FHS career mark to 139-25. Burchett’s career record fell to 110-35.

Farinella was one of four Ads to earn state berths, joining senior Lawton Johnson (third at 152), and sophomores Greg Grieco (third at 171) and Farinella’s brother, sophomore Ethan Farinella, (fourth at 119).

Five other westside wrestlers are headed to Chattanooga for the state meet this week, including Knoxville Catholic siblings Daniel Shurina (senior, second at 171) and Greg Shurina (sophomore, fourth at 285).

They’ll join the Christian Academy of Knoxville tandem of Jacob Smith (second at 135) and freshman Steve Fortner (third at 215), and Matt Moore of Bearden (third at 140). More on these athletes later in this story.


As a career athletic accomplishment, A.J. rated his region title “number one, so far. “It’s the best feeling right now, bar none.

“It feels great, especially after getting a three seed,” he added. “I hadn’t lost a regional match this whole year and they decided to put me as a three seed.”

Tim Brunson, FHS head coach, said A.J.’s last-second two-point move involved “attacking the legs, getting around the corner and finishing the takedown. We knew [A.J.] was going to be in a lot better shape.”

For that reason, Brunson said he was confident going into overtime “because I knew [Burchett] was tired. A-J had him on his heels at that point, kept pushing, kept working.”

“I couldn’t be happier.”

As for Johnson, “I’d say he worked harder than any wrestler in this tournament ... wrestled just a superb tournament,” Brunson said.

Saying it “feels great” to earn a state berth, Johnson repaid the coaching compliment. “Coach Brunson has really taught us conditioning and focus, and he’s done a great job,” the senior said.

Grieco, a sophomore, joins Johnson as a first-time state qualifier. “Definitely one of my biggest accomplishments in any of my sports — swimming, football and wrestling,” said Grieco, a state runner-up in middle school wrestling at 160.

Grieco carries a 27-10 record, including a runner-up finish at the Halls Invitational and seventh-place at Greeneville Invitational, to state this week.

“Greg, just a sophomore, continues to improve,” Brunson said. “Really impressive, wrestled well, never gave up.”

Ethan Farinella, who finished sixth in the state last season as a freshman at 103, said he’s had “a pretty tough year at 119, there’s a big difference going up two weight classes. I just worked out all summer and got a lot bigger.”

Among other Admirals coming close, “Kevin Mann [125] was 14 seconds away from qualifying for state,” Brunson said of Mann’s 9-7 loss in the consolation semifinals.


Daniel Shurina is more than just a standout wrestler according to his coach. “Without him our team would be without a leader, basically,” said KCHS head coach Juan “Junior” Hernandez. “He’s had quite a phenomenal season.”

The 2007 Region champ who earns another trip to state, Daniel’s 33-5 record this season includes a tourney title in Hendersonville and second in the Father Ryan Invitation. His 109-29 career record includes back-to-back KIL crowns.

As for Greg Shurina, “He can take a beating and still stand up and thank you for it,” Hernandez said, adding that he encourages the Shurina brothers to spar in practice. “With Daniel, he’s really competitive, and I want that to [rub-off] on Greg so they both can be big and strong and better.”

Moore, KIL champ at 140 with a 22-7 record, labeled his state berth “a whole new experience for me. It’s great.” The junior credited first-year BHS head coach Donnie Floyd. “He’s really helped me through, taught me everything I know,” Moore said. “He told me as long as I get out there, he’ll take me through. He told me what he’d do and I’m there.”

Floyd said Moore has “improved a lot, he continues to work hard. He’s one of the hardest workers in the room.”

Bulldog Ian McKinley (112) was one win from a state berth.

Gerard Candela, Warrior head coach, said Smith “has worked hard and is very determined.” The CAK senior carries a 27-11 season record, 96-30 career mark, to state.

Fortner will be the youngest westside state qualifier. “I can’t really describe [the feeling],” he said. “At the beginning of the season I thought I’d be good, but I don’t know if I’d be this good. I couldn’t hope for a better season.”

The 215 KIL champ, Fortner also finished fourth at Halls and seventh at the Indian Classic in Kingsport.


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