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In a match that was two parts strategy, three parts talent and one part alignment of the stars, the Jefferson Forest wrestling team did something that has never been done before: It beat Brookville.
The 39-34 win improved the Cavs’ all-time (unofficial) record against the Bees to 1-34.
“This is huge for our program; a huge step for us,” said Forest Head Coach Bill “Hutch” Hutchinson. “It still doesn’t seem real.”
What didn’t seem real was the Cavs’ furious opening to the match.
The first bout featured Zack Cox, at 215. Cox, who actually weighs in the 180s, picked up the pin.
Josh West, all 202 pounds of him, then pinned 282 pound Josh Kidd.
As action shifted to the lower weights, Blake Woodall (103) and Will Drinkard (112) added two more pins, and the Bees were rocked back on their heels.
But there’s a reason why Brookville is going for its 40th straight District title: It knows how to win.
The Bees stormed back behind five straight wins between 119 and 140 pounds, to tie it at 24 apiece.
Jarrett Payne reestablished the lead, taking the pin at 145 pounds with half a minute left in the match.
A major decision and another Bee pin gave Brookville the lead for the first time of the evening, 34-30.
At this point, there were two matches remaining. All Brookville needed was a simple decision to cinch the victory.
Tommy Neal, normally a 160-pounder, faced off with one of Region III’s top grapplers in Nathan Shuler.
Neal wrestled the fight of his life, giving no quarter and managing an escape and takedown with 12 seconds remaining to take a three-point decision.
The Forest hopes were still alive when Josh Grant stepped onto the mat in the evening’s finale.
The Bees led by a single point, but Grant would change that into a Cav five-point victory as he got the pin at 189, with 10 seconds remaining in the first period.
Grant’s teammates and the loyal JF fans then mobbed the junior in the center of the mat in a frenzied celebration.
While Grant iced the cake on this one and Neal set the stage for the dramatic ending, every JF wrestler contributed.
Hutch moved his wrestlers among the weight classes like a chess master shuffling rooks and knights.
Taking forfeits, rather than giving up excitement-inducing pins; losing decisions, but avoiding the fall; outwrestling grapplers obviously bound for states.
All these things added up to the stunning win.
“Everything fell the way it needed to,” said Hutch. “The guys did what they had to. Everything is interconnected.”
Liberty finished in sixth place, out of 10 teams, at the Rustburg Invitational last weekend.
The team was paced by brothers Jordan (119 pounds0 and Justin (140), who each took first place in his class.
Justin ran the table, going 9-0, while Jordan went 8-1.
Both Ian Scott (135) and Cam Hoback also went 8-1, good enough for second place.
Tyler Reynolds and Ronnie Allen split time at the 160 slot and turned in a fourth place finish at 6-3.
Taylor Kennedy (171) also logged a sixth place, wrapping up with a 5-4 run.
Finally, Josh Grant, of JF, earned third place at 189 with a 7-2 mark.