Saturday, December 08, 2012
Christiansburg wrestler aims high, stays grounded
Three-time state champion Joey Dance is rated one of the top wrestlers in the country.
The Roanoke Times | File February
Christiansburg's Joey Dance (right) controls Dave Bowers of Powhatan during their 132-pound weight class match at the Group AA state finals. Dance defeated Bowers to win first place in the state tournament.
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- All-Timesland 2011-12: Celebrating the year's best high school athletes
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Timesland's top returners
(state tournament finishers)
106 — Corbin Woods, Parry McCluer, 1st
113 — Kainan Clark, Parry McCluer, 3rd
145 — Nathan Tomlin, Parry McCluer, 3rd
170 — Cory Williams, Rural Retreat, 2nd
182 — Derek Yates, Rural Retreat, 2nd
106 — Coy Ozias, Christiansburg, 1st
120 — J.R. Wert, Christiansburg, 1st
Chase McDaniel, Cave Spring, 2nd
132 — Joey Dance, Christiansburg, 1st
138 — x—Dallas Smith, Christiansburg, 1st
152 — Andrew Saunders, Northside, 2nd
160 — Zach Epperly, Christiansburg, 1st
170 — Chris Tyree, Staunton River, 2nd
y—Jake Kite, Hidden Valley, 3rd
285 — z—Logan Turner, Cave Spring, 3rd
x—Transfer to James W. Robinson, y—Not wrestling this season, z—Transfer to Magna Vista
CHRISTIANSBURG - A typical high school wrestler might define aiming high as winning a regional championship or perhaps, if he is particularly ambitious, being the last guy standing in his weight class at the state tournament.
For been-there-done-that-and-more Joey Dance of Christiansburg, all the above isn't good enough any longer. The senior dynamo has higher aspirations.
So you could say he's aiming for the stratosphere or some other celestial target, but the problem with that is no known trophy is awarded for leaving the comforts of Earth, not to mention a standard regulation wrestling map.
Staying on solid ground, Dance still has plenty to wrestle for. One goal is in front of him this weekend when he and six teammates from the 11-time state Group AA champion Blue Demons grapple in the prestigious Walsh Ironman tournament in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
"It gets me hungry," said three-time state champion Dance, who will wrestle at 126 pounds thisweekend. "I haven't won Ironman; I haven't won the Beast of East. I have a good chance to do that now."
The Beast, another national level tournament on a par with Ironman, looms Dec. 22-23. The Virginia High School League season unfolds after the first of the year. Then next year it's on to Virginia Tech, where he has already signed.
Dance has been rolling throughout calendar 2012. Ranked No. 1 in the nation at 126 by Amateur Wrestling News among other services, he has been wrestling hard since manhandling the field to win the state 132-pound title last spring. During summer, he spent two weeks at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, in advance of wrestling in the FILA Junior World freestyle tournament in Pattaya, Thailand.
Competing against wrestlers from 26 other nations in the men's junior 55-kilogram class, he finished eighth. He spent a week there, arriving early to train and adjust to the tropical climate and unfamiliar diet.
Dance's worldwide fame increased with an appearance in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd this year. That was one more resume entry for a young man who was a 2011 Junior National and 2009 Cadet National freestyle champion and an All-American in both classifications in freestyle as well as Greco-Roman wrestling.
Back stateside in October, he marauded through the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, N.C., to win that tournament for the second time. Flowrestling.org editor Willie Saylor wrote at the time: "Dance was simply on another level the whole tournament. The things he was doing were sophisticated, high level stuff. ... Impressive to say the least. He was the most advanced kid in the entire tournament."
Looking at two runner-ups to go with the two championships there, Saylor said Dance's accomplishments " ... could be the greatest Super32 career in the tournament's history."
More rave reviews resulted from Dance's winning performance at last week's Lake Norman Duals in North Carolina. Blogger widgeon10 at North Carolina Wrestling Forum wrote: "Joey Dance from Christiansburg is as good as any college kid. He did moves I have never seen."
With those kinds of press clippings for a high school kid, you might think Dance is in danger of owning a skull too big to be contained by conventional wrestling headgear. Not so, Christiansburg coach Daryl Weber said.
"Joey's biggest asset on top of his athleticism and wrestling skills is we've had a lot of guys who have been very talented, but his biggest thing is he's very coachable. If he starts slacking off in any fashion, you can call him out on it. He doesn't argue with you. He believes you. He listens and adjusts just like that.
"Obviously, he's extremely talented. He knows how to wrestle. He's gifted in that way. But if you're not coachable and you're not listening to people sometimes it doesn't pan out. But I think he's going to have a great future just because he's very coachable."
Certainly, a good guess is there are plenty of coaches who wish they'd have had the chance. Salem's Randall Sell has certainly been impressed.
"He's on a different level. As a fan, it's awesome to see. As an opposing coach, there's nothing you can do. But as a fan, it's great. It's awesome."
Cave Spring coach Tim Nininger predicted another big year.
"He's the best in the state of Virginia pound-for-pound by far."
Notoriety has its costs, as Dance is well aware.
"I've got to come ready to wrestle. I know people want to beat me," Dance said. "I have to have the right frame of mind. But I should be all right."