By Brian Eller - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- All Logan Large needed to hear was that final buzzer, the one that told him his team was still alive.
With Strasburg's Colin Barnes seconds away from dropping just his second match all season, Large and the rest of Clarke County's wrestlers knew that buzzer meant there would still be a chance to come out on top.
When that buzzer sounded, sealing Barnes' defeat, the door opened for Clarke County. The scenario was simple. If Large and teammate Rob Wallace combined for a major and a minor fall, the Eagles would take home their first ever regional championship. If not, Strasburg would be the champs.
Sure enough, Wallace picked up a 7-0 win in the 189-pound regional final, followed by Large's pin with 1:42 left in the third period to give Clarke County its first Region B tournament championship, 189-to-188.
"[When Barnes lost] we knew it was time to pick it up," Large said. "We had a chance and it was time to pick it up. We knew we needed a major, a pin or a tech fall, something to give us the points and we got it."
The drama and excitement that capped off the regional tournament was a fitting end to an exciting two-day regional tournament that featured 15 teams, 14 of which had a wrestler advance to the regional finals. But as Day 2 began, it was clear this regional title would be decided between Clarke County and Strasburg.
Heading into the championship matches, Strasburg held a two-point lead, with both teams featuring four wrestlers in the finals. The Rams added an early cushion to their lead, as Lance Ford picked up a pin with 1:29 in the second period, giving him the 103-pound regional title. Four classes later teammate Todd Dean won the 135-pound regional title, beating Stonewall Jackson's Jonathan Martin, 18-8, giving Strasburg some much-needed breathing room.
"This tournament Lance was so focused and determined and really dominated his weight class," Strasburg coach Rick Bowley said. "In Region B he's clearly the most dominant wrestler, even though his class isn't really the deepest, to be honest."
The Eagles kept the pressure on the host team, however, as teammates Tommy Cleary and Joe Nappi picked up back-to-back regional championships. Cleary earned a 6-1 win in the 140-pound regional final over Buffalo Gap's Casey Lewis, while Nappi edged George Mason's Nathan Lailari, 3-2.
Strasburg came right back with a regional title of its own, as Seth Williams shut out Andrew Riner of Madison County 4-0 putting the Rams back in the driver's seat. And following Amelia's Chris Pegram's 160-pound title, the stage was set for Barnes to clinch the title for Strasburg.
Barnes came into the match with a 31-1 record. Like a scene out of a movie, however, his only loss came at the hands of Mannassas Park's Issac Velasquez, the very same wrestler who stood in the way of a regional crown. The two started out evenly matched, finishing the first period at a scoreless tie. In the second period, however, Velasquez jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and appeared to have Barnes against the ropes as the final period began.
And while Barnes struggled to avenge his only loss on the year, Clarke County's two wrestlers still to go huddled together on the side and discussed what would happen if Barnes somehow lost again. And before Barnes could mount a comeback attempt, the final buzzer went off, sending the senior to his knees in despair, and putting the Eagles back into the driver's seat.
"Well, Velasquez is a tough wrestler and we were obviously hoping to win that, and we weren't able to do it so that hurts," Bowley said. "We'll have to figure out a way to beat him next time."
Fueled from the loss by Barnes, Wallace and Large came out with a fury in their respective matches. After Wallace picked up the 189-pound title, Large wasted little time in trying to pin his opponent in the 215-pound title match. He came close two times, and with 1:42 left in the final period, the referee's hand hit the mat, signaling a pin for Large, and a regional title for the Eagles.
"[When I pinned him] I was like, 'Oh my god,'" Large said. "I was in a state of awe."
After his match Large was immediately bombarded by his teammates, then swarmed again as Clarke County received the first-place trophy. In all, 56 wrestlers advanced to the state tournament next weekend, including seven from Clarke County and eight from Strasburg. Sunday night, however, belonged to the Eagles as they celebrated their first regional title.
"A tournament of that level and as tight as that was," Clarke County coach Jon VanSice said, "losing heading into our last match, knowing we had to have six points to win, it doesn't get any better than that."