By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Mike Duffy could feel the pressure building up, match by match, as he waited for his turn on the mat Wednesday night.
The Sherando High School sophomore had a long wait, stuck with the next-to-last match against Northwestern District rival James Wood. The realization that he would be a difference maker sunk in gradually for the 106-pounder as the Colonels stubbornly maintained a lead for most of the night.
By the time Duffy's match against the Colonels' Nick Funkhouser rolled around, James Wood still held a seven-point lead. Sherando needed wins from Duffy and 113-pounder Curtis Guthridge, and one of them probably had to be a pin.
"The people who should've won didn't win, and people who should've gotten a pin didn't get a pin," Duffy said. "I knew it was up to me and Curtis, our 113-pounder, to get those pins and pull ahead to win the dual meet."
Duffy got it done, pinning Funkhouser in one minute, 49 seconds to pull his team within a point. That left it up to Guthridge, who jumped out to a seven-point lead and held on for a 7-2 victory to secure a 36-34 win for the Warriors.
Sherando coach Pepper Martin was glad to get the win to push his team's season record to 13-0, but that was about it. Martin thought his team "looked flat, lethargic."
"We got outwrestled," Martin said. "We had opportunities for pins, didn't finish. We didn't get extra points. We underperformed -- we didn't have a good performance tonight, and we need to learn from this."
James Wood (15-6) served notice that it would be no cakewalk by grabbing a 12-0 lead on pins by Caleb Arcey (120 pounds) and Matt Surber (126) to open the match.
Jacob Guthridge (132) got the Warriors on the board with a pin, and the most anticipated match of the night followed when 138-pounders Jimmy Woznak of James Wood and Sherando's Colton Simmons squared off in a rematch. Woznak won the first matchup 2-0 earlier this season, and this one was even closer.
Through three periods, neither wrestler could gain an advantage. Then in overtime, Woznak picked up two points within 10 seconds during the first 30-second overtime tie-breaker period. Both were penalty points against Simmons for stalling.
"With two good wrestlers, usually styles clash and it ends up in a low-scoring battle, and that's what happened," James Wood coach Greg Walker said.
Sherando's Jordan Dalton (145) scored a decision and John Borst (152) pinned Skyler Litten in 54 seconds to pull the Warriors even at 15-all.
Borst, a freshman, was eager for his turn on the mat.
"I didn't know the kid," Borst said. "You can't really know. I thought I had an Olympic champion walking into the match -- I mean, you have to because if you don't you've already lost the match. You've got to come in aggressive and you've got to come in mean, and you've just got to amp it up."
James Wood's Ryan Funkhouser scored a major decision at 160 pounds to put the Colonels back up, but Sherando's unbeaten 170-pounder P.K. Jessen answered with a pin to give the Warriors their first lead.
The Colonels went back ahead 28-21 on a pin by Daniel Funkhouser (182) and a hard-fought 16-10 win by Austin Henry (195).
Tyler Hamilton needed 5:10 to pin the Colonels' Adam Vadell to get the Warriors back within a point, and Sherando heavyweight Connor Barauskas nearly pulled off a pin before Emmett Smith rallied for a pin in 3:14 to put James Wood up seven and turn up the heat on Duffy and Curtis Guthridge.
The Warriors came through, but it was a near thing.
"I expected a tough match," Martin said. "I don't know if some of our wrestlers were guilty of overlooking some of their opponents."
The loss dropped James Wood to 15-6, but Walker found plenty of positives in the match.
"It's the best we've wrestled all year long," Walker said. "It was awesome. The kids worked hard. Even though we lost, it's still kind of a success for us because I look at Sherando as one of the top teams in the state right now. For us to compete with that is pretty impressive on our part."