By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- Noah Goss had a wrestling match on Wednesday night, that much he knew.
The Skyline sophomore didn't know until midway through the match which weight class he'd be wrestling, as Hawks coach Matt Keel furiously crunched the numbers during a Northwestern District dual matchup with Handley.
Ultimately, Goss had to bump up from his customary 126-pound weight class to wrestle at 132 to make room for junior-varsity call-up Will Spencer.
The strategy worked for Skyline, as Spencer scored an impressive 14-5 decision over the Judges' Garrett Patnode, and Goss followed with a 4-0 decision over Handley's Sean Bridgeforth to help boost his team to a 40-26 victory.
It was a tough assignment for Goss, facing a solid wrestler in Bridgeforth.
"I wanted to win the dual meet," Keel said. "Noah knows that -- it's not about Noah, it's about the team. I just have to build a lineup that helps us the best and the guys this year are really good about that. They're really good about that team effort."
After a scoreless first period, Goss picked up two points on a takedown in the second period, then added to that lead in the final two minutes with an escape and a penalty point against Bridgeforth for stalling.
"My plan was to pound the head, open some things up, take shots if I thought I could get them," Goss said. "It was a nice scramble in the first period. He just slipped and I took advantage of it."
The plan for Spencer was easy -- get the pin. It didn't work out quite that way, as Patnode nearly scored the pin in the closing seconds with a near-fall, but Spencer held on to tally an impressive 14-5 victory.
"When I put him in at  it was to win, because the score was closer than I thought it would be," Keel said. "Now if he went out at , it was to run around, you know, run away. But at  it was to go pin the guy. I didn't know he was going to win by points."
Handley coach David Scott thought those two matches were pivotal, and the back-to-back wins allowed Skyline (12-1) to stretch a 25-23 lead to 28-23 with just four matches remaining.
"I was surprised by [Spencer] coming in and how good he was -- I had never seen him wrestle," Scott said. "That hurt us. I was hoping that we could compete with Goss there, obviously, but that was the big swing in the match right there when we lost that match by so much and then lost to Goss."
Those who stuck around until the end got a treat with an exhibition match between undefeated heavyweight Jordan Dowrey of Handley and Skyline's once-beaten 220-pounder Justin Williams. Dowrey earned 9-5 victory, but it wasn't easy.
"Every time we can, we're looking to get him a six-minute match because it doesn't happen too often," Scott said. "So that was great. And to see two kids that size roll around and wrestle is a lot of fun, instead of just your prototypical heavyweight match where they do a lot of pushing and just kind of neutralize each other."
Dowrey was just glad for some competition, having had just one match go to the third period this season as he's amassed a 30-0 record so far.
"I was hoping it would work out like that, whether he wrestled up as a heavyweight in the regular dual or exhibition, one way or the other," Dowrey said. "I was thinking about it last night, leading up to it. It's just a chance to wrestle someone's who's good and get better. And he's good."
The exhibition was Skyline's idea, and Williams had been looking forward to it all week.
"I haven't really had any good competition all year, so I figured I would give up some weight and go for it," Williams said. "I wrestled pretty good. I made some mistakes in the first period, but overall I think I did pretty well."
Keel said Williams "had a great match" against Dowrey, and more importantly neither wrestler was injured other than a bloodied nose for the Handley heavyweight.
"That did nothing but good things -- and no injuries," Keel said. "That was good for both of them."
Skyline's Tyler Ritter opened the match at 160 with a second-period pin against Emory Rodgers, but the Judges answered with back-to-back pins by Coby Pitcock (170) and Killian McPartland (182).
The Hawks' Zack Blair, a football standout who has been wrestling just a couple weeks, tied the match back up with a second-period pin against Skylar Wotring.
Then Williams got a quick pin, and Dowrey did the same.
Back to the top of the lineup, Skyline's Justin Cornwell scored a major decision (15-2) over Cole Capitano at 106, Handley's Leo Quezada followed with a technical fall (17-0) victory, and Skyline's Caleb VanDoren battled past Sam Thomson in a tough match for a 10-4 victory at 120 pounds.
After the win by Goss, Handley's Anthony Andriola beat Garrett Maddox -- who also bumped up a weight class -- for a 3-0 decision at 138, Skyline's Josiah Huston scored a tight 2-1 decision at 145 and Dustin Santmyers closed out the match with second-period pin for the Hawks.
Handley (17-6) came up short against the Hawks at home, but a youth-laden lineup featuring three freshmen and four sophomores gives Scott plenty of reason to remain optimistic.
"I thought we performed well," Scott said. "We've got a young team, so it's good for them to get in this atmosphere and wrestle this team because they're a good team. Anytime you can put young kids out there and compete and not shut down against a good team like that, as a coach you've got to be happy."
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at 540-465-5137 or at firstname.lastname@example.org