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Westside grabs five region wrestling crowns

Many unique situations matched the size variations as Region II Tournament wrestlers sought a state berth.

Westsiders Ethan Farinella, Greg Shurina, Kevin McGuire, Peyton Landers and Alec Barkman took home region championships Saturday afternoon, Feb. 13, at Bearden High School.

Twelve other westsiders qualified for the Division I state tourney in Franklin Feb. 18-20.

A third-period pin versus Karns' Chuck Manning in the heavyweight title match gave Shurina, a KCHS senior, the 285-pound classification crown and his third career Division I state tournament appearance.

On the other end of the weight spectrum was Barkman, a Farragut freshman (18-4 record), who fought off sickness to earn the 103 title with a third-period pin of Pigeon Forge's Caleb Poole.

“Alec was questioning when he came over if he was going to be able to go,” FHS head coach Tim Brunson said, adding Barkman “really has come a long way ... He had a great, great tournament.”

Moments after his region title, Barkman said, “I surprised myself a little bit because I wasn't feeling that good. My coach and a lot of the teammates said I should wrestle, so I did and I came out on top.

“It feels pretty awesome.”

Farinella, an FHS senior ranked fifth statewide (48-3 record) who finally won a region crown (135) after three previous state qualifying efforts, pinned Union County's Corey Thweatt in the first period.

“I’ve been training extra, going to see Matt Keller [former college wrestler] on the weekends ... he's helped my technique, showed me different moves,” he said.

Farinella, with a 137-77 career record, added about state, “I'm just going in there level-headed ready to win.”

McGuire, a Bearden junior earning his first-ever state berth, scored a late point to force overtime before edging past Nathaniel Parton of PFHS 7-5 in the 140 finals. This battle won “Best Match” honors.

Pulling the biggest upset was Landers, a Bulldogs junior (23-7) in the 189 finals, grabbing his first-ever win versus Farragut's Greg Grieco who came in ranked No. 4 in state with a 35-2 record. Landers won 6-2 against last year's 171 region champ.

Donnie Floyd, BHS head coach, said McGuire has “consistently been my hardest worker all year,” adding Landers' athleticism and strength “is really his key.”

McGuire said, “At the beginning of the year I set some goals for myself. Two of them were to go to state, and get first in region.

“I wanted it so bad, it's the worst thing I've ever wanted in my whole life,” he added. “Nothing else mattered then. I think that fire inside of me just gave me the victory.”

In overtime, McGuire successfully struck first “with a single leg shot that he finished,” Floyd said.

About his region title, McGuire said, “I feel like it's way overdue. I've been wrestling for five years and that's the first time that I've ever gotten first.”

Farragut finished second to Pigeon Forge (188-129) for the team title, with BHS and West tied for fourth (111.50), Hardin Valley Academy sixth (111) and KCHS eighth (88).

Bearden freshman Jake Knox (160) also earned a state berth by finishing second.

“As the maturity comes, he'll only get better,” Floyd said of Knox. “Once we get a little more age on him, a little more experience, he should be in the finals the next three years — and winning it.”

Seven HVA Hawks led the way among third- and fourth-place state qualifiers, with Landyn Behn (125) and David Vaigneur (140) finishing third. “Those were impressive [third-place] wins,” HVA head coach Jeffrey Hash said.

Also third were Admirals junior Josh Zink (160) and freshman C.T. Leavell (285) and Kyle Walter of Bearden (119).

Fourth-place westsiders were Connor Johnson of FHS (140), Bearden's Ian McKinley (112) and Hawks Jackson Beggs (119), Tim Vara (145), Matt Winstead (152), Ben Vaigneur (189) and Zech Kaser (285).

“Josh and Connor and C.T. all did well,” Brunson said.

Zink, also earning his first state bid, said, “It's really amazing; last year I was two points away from doing it. To actually get through this year and make it ... is really an amazing feeling now. That really helped motivate me this year, ’cause last year I was so close.”

Walter, a junior, is making his first-ever state trip. “I’m really glad, not only being able to go to state, but placing third at region.”

Grieco managed to qualify for state and finish second despite being diagnosed with mononucleosis just a few days before entering the region tournament.

“He's a warrior,” Brunson said. “We've been concerned about his health and his safety.”

Hash said putting seven Hawks in state — six more than last season’s first HVA team — “is quite a feat for Hardin Valley and a second-year program. ... We're very happy.”

Moreover, with no losses due to graduation and coming off a state dual meet appearance, the 2010-11 Hawks season looks especially encouraging. “We have big expectations for next season,” Hash said.


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