St. Christopher's has a rich history in the sport of wrestling, especially since 2002 when the Saints began their eleven year reign as the preeminent program in private school wrestling in Virginia. However, even before Pete Shaifer won his first VISAA team title as the Saint's head wrestling coach in 2002, St. Christopher's has developed some very successful teams and individuals.
The Saints wrestling program has developed 75 VISAA individual State champions, beginning in 1973 when Gordon Kirkham '73 won the 148 lb. title. Robbie Fiero '90 is the first three-time State champion for St. Christopher's winning titles from 1988-1990. Every year since 1996, the program has put at least one wrestler on top of the State championship podium, including 2014's champions: Joey Prata ’16, William Kelly '14, Carrington Lanier ’15, and Tyler Anthony '14. Kevin Donahue '07 is the only St. Christopher's wrestler to win four consecutive VISAA championships, earning titles from 2004-2007. In 2013 Robert Janis '13 joined David Wesley '11 and Zach Rolfe '06 as the third five-time VISAA State place winners in school history. Janis placed 5th as an eighth grader and third as a freshman before winning three straight VISAA State championships in his last three years. Wesley also broke Rolfe's record for career victories during the 2010-11 wrestling season, ending his stellar career with 210 wins.
St. Christopher's has been the most consistent private school wrestling program in Virginia, winning twelve straight Virginia Prep League and eleven consecutive VISAA State championships under Pete Shaifer, (who won six VISAA titles as coach), three with Frank Kiefer at the helm, and two (2011 and 2012) under fourth year head coach John Gordon. For his efforts, Gordon was named Wrestling USA Magazine National Coach of the Year in 2011. However, the Saints won their first VISAA team title under a former St. Christopher's State champion wrestler. In 1995, Lake Taylor '88 led the Saints to the VISAA title, matching his individual feat from 1988. The 2010 team broke Woodberry Forest's record of eight straight VISAA State championships when they won their ninth consecutive State championship. And in 2012, the Saints made it a perfect eleven VISAA and Virginia Prep League team championships in a row. Current assistant coach Ross Gitomer was named NWCA Assistant Coach of the Year for Virginia in 2012 and National Prep Assistant Coach of the Year in 2013.
The team has competed successfully at the national level, placing in the top ten at the National Prep Championships three times, including a school best 7th place finish in 2010. The Saints have also shown consistency at the national level by finishing in the top twenty every year since 2003, including 2013s sixteenth place finish.
40 wrestlers have garnered All-American status, by placing in the top eight of their weight class at Nationals. Four have reached the finals: Gordon Kirkham '73 in 1973 and Brandon Jeske and David Wesley '11 in 2010 and in 2014 Joey Prata ’16. Prata became the first Saints wrestler to win a National Prep title, capturing the 106 lb. title. Scott Harvard '73 was the first St. Christopher's grappler to earn All-American honors when he placed third at 129 lbs in 1973. St. Christopher's has produced at least one National Preps place winner every year since 2003. In 2009, the team produced the most All-Americans in school history, with five Saints placing in the top eight of their weight class for coach Frank Kiefer. The 2014 team produced two All-Americans: National Prep Champion Joey Prata '16 and William Kelly '14 (5th place, 126 lbs.). Kelly joins Kevin Donahue '07, David Wesley '11, and Robert Janis ‘13 as the program's only three-time National Prep All-Americans.
St. Christopher's has begun to show its strength in off season wrestling too, having developed a number of USA Wrestling and NWCA National Champions and All-Americans. Tyler Spangler '09 was the first Saints wrestler to earn USA Wrestling All-American status with a seventh place finish at the 2007 Cadet Nationals in Fargo, ND. He repeated the feat in 2008 to become a two-time USA Wrestling All-American. In 2009, David Wesley '11 placed at the NWCA Sophomore Nationals tournament and won the NWCA Junior Nationals in 2010 to take home All-American certificates. Wesley was joined atop the victory podium in 2010 by Brandon Jeske, who won the 119 lb. title at the NWCA Freshman Nationals. And in 2013, Joey Prata '16 became the first Saints wrestler to reach the top of the podium at the USA Wrestling Cadet Nationals, winning the 100 lb. crown in Greco Roman. His championship made him a three-time Cadet National All-American, placing 4th in Greco Roman and 5th in freestyle in 2012.
Saints grapplers are no stranger to the college wrestling ranks either. Former four-time VISAA State champion Kevin Donahue '07 was the first St. Christopher's wrestler to earn NCAA All-American status in 2009 when he placed 7th at the Division III National tournament for Cornell (IA) College. He became a two-time All-American in 2010 with a 4th place finish for the Rams, and ended his career as a three-time All-American. In 2009 Tim Rose '05 took 2nd at the NCWA National tournament for Amherst College. Former state champion wrestlers Ted Gottwald '10 and David Wesley '11 compete at the NCAA Division I level: Gottwald for VMI and Wesley for the Virginia Tech.
The future continues to look bright for St. Christopher's wrestling program, with two State champions, six VISAA place winners and eight National Prep qualifiers preparing for the 2014-15 season. Joey Prata '16 looks to join an elite group of St. Christopher's wrestlers in 2014, gunning for his third National Prep All-American certificate. The program is continuing to work hard to develop the school's first National Preps champion, which could happen any time over the next few years. The legacy of St. Christopher's wrestling is growing deeper each year, with a new crop of Saints wrestlers trying to out-do the last group's success.