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Staunton River played the role of rude holiday host, smacking down all who had come over the river and through the woods to the River Rumble wrestling tournament.
Seemingly every Golden Eagle came to wrestle as Staunton River swept its bracket with wins over Radford (66-12), James River (67-12) and E.C. Glass (50-27). That sweep put the Eagles into the championship round against Hidden Valley, which Staunton River dispatched by a score of 57-24.
What made the River romp even more impressive is the Eagles forfeited every match at 125 (Austin Carr ankle injury) and, with Tony Boughton not making weight at 152, much of the lineup was shuffled.
Michael Franklin plugged in at 152 while Boughton moved up to 160. That move bumped Scott Fike up to 171 and Dustin Kidd up to 189. The upshot? Franklin went a respectable 2-2, with pins against Radford and James River. Boughton and Fike ran the table, with each picking up two pins. Kidd went 3-0 with a pair of pins. He sat out against James River, letting Ryan Wade get a shot. Wade did just fine, using an interesting and unique hold to get his pin on the Knights' Dylan Johnson early in the second period. Hey, by hook or by crook.
Boughton's not making weight cannot be attributed to too much holiday egg nog. The lad is just a muscular, still-growing fellow. Odds are that this won't be the last time we'll see him at a higher weight class.
The shining moments for Staunton River were 130 pound Will Epperly and 135 pound Jeremy Tyree. The duo, named (two of the three) outstanding wrestlers of the tourney, provided the kinds of wins that the Eagles need to get if they are to propel themselves to the top of the heap.
In the first round, Epperly went up against Tanner Sutphin, defending state champ at the A level. The Staunton River senior wrestled a smart, technically sound match including two nice takedowns en route to a 5-2 win.
Tyree went up against last year's state runner-up, Adam Sandoe, coming away with a nailbiter, 11-8. "(Tyree) is wrestling super well for us," said Eagle Head Coach Ron Long. "He's a very smart wrestler who knows where he is at all times. We have big plans for him."
Long has big plans for the team, in general, including a special Jan. 16 visit to Brookville, defending Seminole District champions going back to the Roosevelt presidency (or so it seems). "We're champing at the bit for Brookville," said Long. "It's what we're working for."
The tourney served as a homecoming, of sorts, for Salem Head Coach Randall Sell. The coach, who moved from Staunton River at the end of the season seemed happy to be at his old stomping grounds. "It's nice to see old friends," said Sell. "I gave up a lot (to move) but I wish Staunton River all the success in the world."
All things seem well positioned for success and the team appears to be hitting on all cylinders. Said Coach Long, "We have so much heart, it's bursting out of our chest."
Liberty got back to its winning ways, in time for the Bedford Brawl (this Saturday, 10:15). The Minutemen used their strength in the middle weights to defeat Seminole rival Heritage 35-24. The win follows a whipping the team (1-1, District) took at the hands of Rustburg.
Liberty Head Coach Darryl Updike wasn't overly thrilled with his team. "Any District win is a good win," he stated. "When we get all of our wrestlers into their best weight classes, this team will produce far greater results."
Robert Smith started things off for Liberty with a pin at 130 before Brad Hoback earned a major decision (18-6) at 135.
At 140, or the battle of the last names, Liberty's Tyler Reynolds lost a close one to Pioneer Eric Reynolds, 2-1. But that inspired a streak of four straight wins for the Minutemen, starting with Justin Eubank's blanking of Mendez Cardwell at 145 (3-0). Cam Hoback picked up a nice pin on Cody MacArthur at 152.
Following Heritage's forfeit at 160, Taylor Kennedy put the match out of reach with his major decision at 171, over Brice Bhalla.
Updike pointed out the youth upon which Liberty is relying. "Of the 11 (I had wrestling), six were freshmen or first-year wrestlers," he said. "I'm proud and please with their efforts." Updike pointed to Eubank, Smith and Taylor, in particular, for their wins.
The team had noticeable gaps in its lineup, including forfeits at 103, 119, 189 and 215. "I have guys who have been unable to attend practice on any consistent basis for a multitude of reasons," stated Updike. "Because of (poor attendance) conditioning, timing, execution, and finishing have been adversely affected. This should be a wake-up call for us."
The Minutemen had best wake up by this Saturday. That's when they will host the Bedford Brawl, starting at 10:15. Participating teams include Randolph-Henry, Patrick Henry, Salem, Jefferson Forest, Pallotti, Powhattan and Liberty.
Forest doused by Brookville
Jefferson Forest had its shot at upsetting monster Brookville but such a scenario just wasn't in the cards. "They didn't beat us," said Forest Head Coach Bill "Hutch" Hutchinson. "They killed us."
Wrestling without standouts Chris Bowyer and Tommy Neal, the Cavs didn't even have a remote chance. Hey, at least David brought a slingshot.
The final score was 64-17 with the highlights for Forest serving as bookends. 103 pounder Will Drinkard earned a first period pin, as did heavyweight Brandon Beemer. "(Drinkard) is a tough kid," said Hutch, who had to endure watching six straight black and red wrestlers lose by pin to the mighty Bees.
Hutch showed admiration for the Brookville squad's prowess. "Summer wrestlers make winter champions," he said, referring to the Bees' collective dedication to the sport.