Orange, VA- Like many Southwest Virginia families, Pulaski Middle School eighth grader Cherokee Widner’s home was powerless for 5 days due to the winter storm. After no television, video games, hot meals and sleeping in front of a fireplace each night surrounded by family, cats and his collie, Widner was eager to get out of his Sylvatus home and travel traveled 3 ½ hours Sunday morning to compete at the 4th Annual Orange Wrestling Tournament. Upon arrival, Widner was slotted in the 122-130 pound category and pool “A” as the Cadet (7th and 8th grade) competition began around 2 pm.
In the first round, Widner competed against Eric Eva, a member of the Virginia Elite Wrestling Club and Christiansburg Middle School. This was a rematch of Widner’s first career wrestling match last November 15 when Eva pinned him in the second round. Seeking revenge, the action became rather intense as the bodies strained to gain the upper hand. Eva was relying on his year round training and five years experience compared to Widner’s 2 ½ months experience and his world renowned powerlifting strength. The match had several near-pins by both grapplers, but Eva won by points 12-2 at the end of the three 1 ½ minute periods.
Widner’s next opponent was Julio Alegria, an eighth grader from H. H. Poole Middle School in Stafford, Virginia. Widner’s objective was to finish the match quickly to be able to conserve his energy for the remainder of the long meet. The Pulaski Oriole slammed Alegria into the mat in the first three seconds of the match. Alegria tried to crawl out of bounds, but Widner stood up, grabbed his opponent’s leg and dragged him back into the ring. Widner finished the match by quickly pinning him in 37 seconds.
Still in the hunt for the silver medal, Widner took on Roger Graham of Waynesboro, Virginia. Graham used his height advantage and five years experience after Widner did not establish wrist control and eventually pinned the Pulaski wrestler in 1:26.
In his final match of the tournament, second year wrestler Tommy Sutphin of Prospects Heights Middle School of Orange, VA competed against Widner. Within 13 seconds, Cherokee had Sutphin on his back and then held him there for another 46 seconds until the referee finally called it a pin. The 59 second victory secured Widner with the bronze medal and a 2-2 record for the tournament. Roger Graham eventually won the gold medal by defeating Erick Eva 2-1 in their final match. Eva finished second followed by Widner in third, Alegria in fourth and Sutphin in fifth.
Widner’s current record is 15-7 in his first year of wrestling. He is looking forward to attending a few more practices at Pulaski High School this week to stay in shape for upcoming tournaments. Cherokee and a few of his Pulaski County Middle School wrestling teammates plan on competing in the 9th Annual Cavalier K-8 Tournament on Saturday in Hillsville.