Cody Hughes takes over a Christiansburg wrestling program that has won 17 of the last 20 state Class 3 state championships. He replaces Cliff Warden, who stepped down last month after three years at the helm.
Hughes is a former 4-time Maine state champion who qualified for nationals his senior year at Virginia Tech. He had been helping coach the Blue Demons for the past two years.
“I accepted the job because I know Christiansburg has a rich history of wrestling and was looking to help build on that,” he said.
This is his first official head coaching position after helping with numerous youth wrestling camps.
“I want to help each individual accomplish his goals on the mat. Hopefully by doing that the team will have success along the way,” Hughes said.
He will be assisted by Brandon Taylor, who has helped with the Christiansburg program for the past three years.
This past year, the Blue Demons finished third in the Class 3 state championships after winning the Region 3D trophy for the eighth straight year.
Four key wrestlers return for Christiansburg. 120-pound Junior Policarpo was injured last year but was a state place winner in 2020. Luke Robie is a 3-time state place winner at 145 pounds and was a 2021 state finalist in Class 3. Parker Ferrell returns at 220 pounds and is currently ranked 12th in the country while heavyweight Aiden Lacoma (285 pounds) took the year off from football after being the 2021 state champion and is ranked 15th in the country.
“We have a lot of young guys on the team and some holes in our lineup at a couple of weight classes,” Hughes said. Still, he has high expectations for those key returners on the state and national level. “We have two major national tournaments in December. For the rest of our younger guys, we are excited to see the progress they’ve made during the offseason and look to have multiple state place winners and a few state champions,” he said.
New Kent is the reigning Class 3 state champion and returns a loaded roster. Skyline High School placed ahead of Christiansburg last year and also returns some key wrestlers.
Chris Johnson enters year number six at the helm of the Blacksburg wrestling program, which finished 2-1 last year in dual meets. Four-year starter Sam Baker has graduated after finishing last season as the Region 4D runner up.
But Johnson returns four experienced wrestlers. Tharun Svetanant will be at 138 and as a junior finished fifth at the 2021 state Class 4 tournament after winning the regional championship at 132 pounds.
Garrett Henderson will be at 132. He missed 2021 because of an injury after finishing as the region runner-up in 2020.
Junior Robert Baker will be at 145 and was the regional runner-up last season at 126. But the one to watch could be freshman Braden Henderson at 126. He had a lot of success in middle school and is adjusting to the high school competition.
“We are very young with only one senior in the starting line-up,” said Johnson. “We will have early season growing pains but will be a very different team at the end of the season vs. the beginning.”
At the state level, Johnson said Great Bridge will be the team to beat.
“We really only worry about doing our job. The goal is to show up, work hard, and get better every day. If we do our job, good things happen,” he said.
Meanwhile in Radford, the Bobcats’ hopes for success rests with two sophomores. Lance Duncan (170) finished fifth at states last year while Dawson Martin (195) was third.
Coach Dwayne Martin is in his third season and said the program is continuing to rebuild and grow. “We are bringing back lots of experience in the upper weight classes. We have a team filled with freshmen and sophomores,” he said.