- Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 11:18
- Published on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:32
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The day was filled with highlights for the host team as Washington & Lee ran away with their own invitational wrestling tournament, The Montrossity IV, for the first time ever. They went 5-0 on the day, rolling over Essex (66-18), King George (54-28), Mills Godwin (57-18), and Amelia (68-12) in their pool, then besting runner-up Caroline County 47-27 in the final match. Beyond the scores and the decidedly dominant performance, though, lies a much more powerful truth about the value of sport and the growth of young men and women through competition.
The opening match versus Essex was less than inspiring despite the one-sided score.
“Perhaps we hadn’t woken up yet. Maybe we took them lightly because they only have 7 wrestlers. I don’t know, but we had to fix it or it would have been a very long day,” said Coach David Wilkerson. Two Eagles, 126lb senior Brandon Deel and 195lb freshman Gabe Loessel, had leads versus Trojans, only to get pinned in the second period. That match was followed by a rousing “pep talk” from Coach Wilkerson which could be overheard by most of the gymnasium, despite the fact that it took place outside in the cold.
The second match versus King George saw significant improvement from most of the team. 106lb junior Raskey Dejesus, 113lb sophomore Moses Oviedo, Deel, 138lb senior Marcus Clayton, 182lb junior Cole Follin, Loessel, and senior 285lber Raymond Johnson all picked up pins to lead the way to a solid victory. Senior co-captain Michael Clayton, though, surprisingly picked up his 4th loss of the young season against a very tough Jacob Tucker at 160lbs. Junior Sam McGill, wrestling at 145lbs, underachieved as well, looking sluggish and seemingly unconditioned in a 17-8 loss to Bryson Howard.
A break through occurred in the third match against Mills Godwin. “We really started to wrestle instinctively there. The kids were aggressive, hitting moves, and truly expecting to pick up pins,” said Wilkerson. Oviedo provided an early spark with a second period pin of the well regarded Dakota Biggs and the rest of the team seemed to follow his lead, winning 11 of 14 matches.
The final match in pool play versus Amelia served as a launching pad for the finals. W&L racked up an insurmountable 41-0 lead by winning the first 7 matches. McGill again did not look like himself in getting pinned in the second period and Follin got pinned by Charles Taylor, arguably Amelia’s best wrestler, but the Eagles still managed to win 12 of 14 matches to set up the showdown with Caroline which would decide the tournament championship.
Caroline scored first as James McClure pinned an overmatched DeJesus in one minute. Oviedo capped his 5-0 day with a dominant second period pin of Bejamin Crawford but was penalized one team point for his celebratory front flip, making the team score 6-5. Freshman first year wrestler James Snider won his 4th match of the day next with a quick 1:26 pin of Gary Anderson, making the score 11-6, W&L. Brandon Deel, who had reeled off three wins after his uninspiring morning performance, was dealing with a forearm injury sustained versus Amelia which disenabled him from gripping with his right hand. He elected to compete. “We were hoping that he could somehow just manage not to get pinned. At that point in the match, every single point mattered,” said Wilkerson. Deel pinned Josh Zelenick in 1:17 and walked off the mat in tears holding his arm: the bench and Eagle faithful exploded in an ovation. W&L forfeited at 132 due to an injury to sophomore John Hemenway’s back, bringing up Marcus Clayton who was 4-0 on the day, with the score 17-12 W&L. Clayton earned two take downs and even put Luke Price on his back, but his inexperience left him vulnerable and he was rolled and pinned in the second period. 18-17 Caroline. Steven Wilson, normally the back-up 138lber, stepped in at 145, to pin Mark Rollin, who had won their first meeting last season, in 1:39. 23-18 W&L. Sam McGill, a state qualifier last year who had simply not found his stride yet on the day or the season, finally turned it on and pinned Jacob Pugh in 2:37 to make the score 29-18. “He walked off the mat and said, ‘I’m back, Coach’,” said Wilkerson. Michael Clayton, twin brother to Marcus, wrestled “his most complete match of the season. Coming back to put the kid on his back with just seconds to go was huge for him,” said Wilkerson. And for the team. His 8-6 decision over Donald Harris-Smith made it 32-18. Jeremiah McNeil, in his first match of the day, started off strong, putting Cody Kidd on his back in the early moments, but eventually relented and was pinned in 2:29, making the team score 32-24. Cole Follin, whose grandmother is battling cancer, dedicated his tournament to her and it really showed in the finals as he dominated Jordan Byers, racking up 10 points, then pinning him unceremoniously in 3:08 to make the lead 14. Loessel, another slow starter on the day, had won his last three and a win could clinch victory for the team. He was battling Aaron Teague, who was 4-0 at that point on the day, and Loessel struck first, snapping Teague down for a takedown. Loessel earned reversals to start the 2nd and 3rd periods and dominated on top to win 6-1 and score 3 points for the team, which put the match out of reach for Caroline. W&L picked up another quick pin from heavyweight Johnson and the celebration was on.
“We really triumphed over all sorts of things today,” said an emotionally drained Wilkerson after the match. “With Cole’s grandmother, all the rest of it seems kind of small. The life lessons that we’re taking away from surmounting these challenges…they’re invaluable. In the end, you’re wrestling against yourself. And itsn’t that life?”