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ALL-AREA WRESTLING: Beltran never met his match on mat

Even in the Virginia High School League’s revised five-classification format, there’s not much doubt Mountain View’s Josue Beltran Jr. (just Junior, he prefers) was the very best 120-pound high school wrestler in the state.

Of the top four finishers in both 5A and 6A, Beltran wrestled and beat six of them in the 2013–2014 season.

Few wrestlers were as tested this year.

“[Mountain View coach Frank DeBerry] is always trying to make our schedule tougher,” said Beltran, The Free Lance–Star’s All-Area wrestler of the year. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I got the good matches, and it’s always better to wrestle those tough kids.”

Beltran’s record wasn’t perfect, though.

Along with 54 wins this year was one blemish.

The Wildcats wrestled at a tournament in Delaware in late December. Beltran said he was sick during the week and the constant battle wrestlers fight with the scales had left his body drained.

It was in the semifinals that Beltran ran in to Lake Braddock’s Ryan Haskett.

“I don’t think Junior fully expected Ryan to come back the way he did,” DeBerry said. “He had improved quite a bit.”

Haskett scored a third-period takedown on a call DeBerry said flirted with the out-of-bounds line and Beltran lost, 4–2.

But in defeat, there were lessons to be learned.

“When we walked away,” DeBerry said, “I just told him we have to fight in all positions. Don’t stop until you hear that whistle. We never had that issue the rest of the season.”

“I just knew after that match I had to take it seriously,” Beltran added. “I knew if I saw him again, I would take it to him and show him I deserved to win.”

Beltran got his chance for revenge at Colonial Forge’s Ultimate Challenge in January.

Again he and Haskett met in the semifinals. But this time, Beltran prevailed, 5–4. He followed that up with a 4–2 win over Forge’s Josh Nail (the 6A 120-pound state champion) in the finals that weekend.

Haskett ended up second in 6A. Beltran also had wins this year against Orange’s Isaiah Coleman–Combs (third in 5A) and Landstown’s Deandre Corbe (fourth at 6A).

And then there was the state final, when the “wrestle to the whistle” lesson Beltran learned against Haskett paid off.

Hermitage’s Cam Timok—the Group AAA 2013 120-pound state champion—took a 3–0 lead against Beltran into the third period of the final.

“From the beginning, even before the match, I was telling myself, ‘I’m going to be a champion,’” Beltran said. “Even down 3–0 in the third, no doubt came across my mind. I never thought, ‘What if I lose?’ Even when I was down, I thought I was going to win. I just believed in myself and made it happen.”

Beltran turned the three-point deficit into a 4–3 lead, scoring a reverse and two back points with 38 seconds remaining. He rode Timok out for the rest of regulation to claim the first individual state crown in Mountain View history (teammate Jared Swan won the second at 170 pounds about an hour after Beltran’s win).

That never-quit attitude was the most important lesson, Beltran said, for anyone who wants to be a state wrestling champion. First believe in yourself and then get to work.

“You have to believe you can be a state champion and you have to tell yourself you can do it,” he said. “You have to make that your goal.

“You have to believe you can do it, and then you have to go out and practice every day and go into every match thinking you’re going to win. ‘I deserve to be a state champion.’”

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045