By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline's Justin Williams paced behind the Hawks' bench as he watched teammate Zack Blair and Warren County's Jeff Budwash face off in the 195-pound match of Tuesday's non-district dual wrestling meet between the cross-town rivals.
Williams watched closely as Budwash picked up a pin in the match, giving the Wildcats a 25-23 lead with just three matches to go and sending the Warren County crowd into a frenzy.
As Williams approached the mat for his 220-pound bout with Warren County's Zach Poehler, the Skyline senior had just one thought on his mind -- getting a pin.
"That's what all of my coaches were telling me -- that I needed six to help win this thing and take all of the pressure off of our 106-pounder [Justin Cornwell]," Williams said.
Williams didn't let his coaches down, picking up a late second-period pin to vault Skyline into the lead for good and helping the Hawks to a 35-28 win.
"The expectation is for him to pin. When you're the No. 1 220-pounder in the state, you're expected to pin everyone," Hawks coach Matt Keel said. "We knew -- a pin and we win."
Williams and Poehler felt each other out for the first minute of their match before Poehler, who entered the match sporting a 21-1 record this season, gathered two points on a takedown with 58 seconds to go in the first period.
Williams responded with a takedown of his own at the midway point of the second period to knot the score at 2-all before Poehler scored a point on an escape to retake the lead.
The pair went to a neutral position with 30 seconds left in the match, and that's when Williams made his move. Williams was able throw Poehler to the ground with seven seconds remaining, and the referee quickly awarded Williams a victory by fall with just 4.5 seconds showing on the clock.
"I've never really wrestled him live, he wrestled heavyweight last year. I figured it would be a close match, so I was trying not to shoot a lot in the first period," Williams, who extended his season record to 35-2, said. "He caught me one time and got some points there, and I escaped. We went neutral and I double-under and I just did a little hip toss and put him on his back and held him there."
The win gave the Hawks a 29-25 lead, but they weren't completely out of the woods as two matches remained.
Senior Chris Grady took care of that.
Grady faced off with Warren County senior Josh Laravie it what began as a slow heavyweight match, with neither wrestler able to gather points. But that changed quickly as the clock wound down in the first period.
Grady was able to get Laravie to the ground with 11 seconds remaining, and was awarded the pin with 1.5 seconds left to seal the victory for Skyline.
"Honestly, I got really mad because the whole time I just felt like he was stalling," Grady said. "Once I got a hand on him I just had to get it done. I was actually looking at the clock when it happened -- I thought the time ran out when [the referee] hit the mat."
Warren County started the match strong, as Zach Beckner and Levi Lambert each picked up major decision wins to help the Wildcats to an 8-4 lead.
But Skyline showed its strength in the middle weights, rattling off five straight victories to gain a 23-8 advantage.
Skyline's Noah Goss started the streak with a second-period pin against the Wildcats' Noah Jacobs, and Garrett Maddox, Joey Huston, Dustin Santmyers and Tyler Ritter each picked up decision victories during the stretch.
Warren County's ability to avoid losses via fall kept the Wildcats in the match despite the early losses.
"It was tough. Our normal 126-pounder [Tyler Shanholtz] is out due to an illness, so we had to bump some of our kids up," Wildcats coach Matt Wadas said. "I really thought the kids, even the kids who lost, did a great job of fighting at every position."
Warren County's Dillon Kidd ended the Hawks' run with a third-period pin on Joey Norman, and a technical fall victory by Jacob Hill and Budwash's pin gave Warren County a 25-23 advantage.
In the final match of the night, Warren County's Tyler Barisciano picked up an 8-1 decision over Justin Cornwell.
Skyline jumps right back into action tonight as they host Sherando and Millbrook in what will be the final Northwestern District dual matches of the season. The Hawks can win the district with victories over both squads, and Tuesday's victory only gives Skyline more confidence.
"This means a lot for this team," Grady said. "I think tomorrow that means we're going to go in with a lot of momentum and knowing that we can sweep the district if we can get the win."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org