By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- After losing in the semifinals of the Appalachian Duals wrestling tournament on Saturday, Skyline, the host team, took a few minutes to regroup.
The Hawks went to the locker room and talked, and they came out refocused. The Hawks won their last two matches to finish third, the highest they have placed in the six years of the tourney.
"We sat down together and decided we couldn't let this loss affect us," Skyline's Dustin Santmyers said of the locker room talk. "We've worked too hard as a team, to lose to one team, and let it ruin our whole day."
The Hawks only loss of the tournament came to Loudoun County 47-21, but in the next round Skyline beat Lake Braddock 37-33.
The match came down to the 145 weight class. Skyline's Josiah Huston suffered a knee injury, but fought through it to pick up the decisive 3-2 decision.
"He was hurt, but he got his points and he held on," Skyline coach Matt Keel said. "The other guy was really good, so that was an exciting victory."
The tournament was won by Franklin County for the second consecutive year. Group AAA Franklin County beat Loudoun County, 56-12, in the final.
The Hawks won the third place match, 45-26, over Woodgrove.
Skyline's Justin Williams helped give the team a lift with a 9-4 victory at 285. Williams usually wrestles at 220 but bumped up a weight class for the third-place match.
"I thought it was going to be harder than it was," Williams said. "I was giving up a lot of weight, but I pulled it out."
Williams and Santmyers (152) each went 7-0 in the tournament for the Hawks.
The tournament was a two-day event. On Friday, teams were placed in groups and each wrestled three matches. On the second day, the top two from each group moved into the top bracket, while the bottom two from each group were placed into the bottom bracket.
Strasburg went 0-3 on Friday, but bounced back strong Saturday. The Rams won their first two matches, despite having to forfeit five individual matches in each team match.
Strasburg's Lance Ford got a pin in the final match for a 40-39 victory over Jefferson forest. Ford knew he needed to get a pin to give the Rams the victory and did so in the second period.
Ford said he loves being in those situations.
"It's nerve-wracking, but afterwards the feeling is unbelievable," Ford said. "That's why I wrestle -- for that kind of feeling. It makes you feel like you're on top of the world."
The Rams then slipped past E.C. Glass 39-27 to move into the ninth-place match against North Stafford.
Strasburg was without several wrestlers due to injury, and then Kent Cadle suffered an injury in the tournament to make things even worse for the Rams. Strasburg forfeited four matches to North Stafford, and with a couple losses, quickly went down 36-0.
The Rams responded with wins at 106 and 113. Ford, who normally wrestles at 113 moved up to 120 and rallied for a 5-4 win to cut the lead to 36-15.
"I went out there, I wrestled hard, and I gave it all I had," Ford said.
Nic Campbell picked up a pin at 126, to cut the lead to 36-21, but North Stafford rallied with two pins to secure a 48-33 win.
"I thought we wrestled much better [Saturday] than what we did [Friday]," Strasburg coach Trey Kirkland said. "[Saturday] we could've been 3-0. Just a few small adjustments, if we would have made them, could have made a difference."
Kirkland said he knew it was going to be difficult, especially with all the injuries. Kirkland said he wanted the early-season schedule to be tough to make sure the team is ready for districts, regionals and states.
"We wanted to build our schedule up a little bit, get some tougher tournaments and face some tougher teams this year," Kirkland said. "So we would be more prepared for the postseason."
Central was also in the tournament. The Falcons were in the bottom two of their group on Friday, and lost to Osbourn and Manassas Park on Saturday.
The Hawks have big expectations for this season, and placing third in the tournament will help build their confidence.
Skyline had four starters out, but several wrestlers stepped up and the team didn't miss a beat.
"This is the most depth that Skyline's ever had," Santmyers said. "It feels good that when somebody gets sick it doesn't hurt our whole team. We can just pop somebody in there and they can step up and win."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org