Skyline responds to early loss, places third at Strasburg Duals

STRASBURG – The high school wrestling postseason is on the horizon, and a young Skyline High School team showed on Saturday that it is developing the maturity it will need to handle adversity come playoff time.

Competing in the Strasburg Duals, the Hawks opened the tournament with a loss to Liberty (Bealeton) but made sure that was their only blemish, as they went on to win their final four matches of the day to finish in third place among the 10 teams in attendance.

Hawks head coach Matt Keel said following his team’s 57-15 win over Lebanon in the third-place match that his team has the talent and experience to generate success on the mat, and Saturday’s outcome further supported his feeling that Skyline’s mental fortitude is continuing to trend in the right direction, as well.

“One thing we’re working on is let’s try to be the most mature person in our group, whether it’s your team, your class, your science group, whatever. It’s that maturity, it’s that growing up,” Keel said. “They’re super young. I’ve got one senior on the team and so I’m watching these kids all grow up and all mature and handle tough, tough situations where most people just break down. Bounce back from losses and then come back and win tough matches, and bounce back from dual losses and come back and have the day we had.”

Skyline’s day began with a 47-20 loss to Liberty – the eventual tournament champs – that saw the Eagles win eight of the final nine bouts, but the Hawks bounced back with lopsided wins over Heritage-Leesburg (65-12) and George Mason (62-9) before closing pool play with a 36-30 win over Derry (Pennsylvania).

Sophomore 195-pounder Ethan Gue,  the only Hawk to finish 5-0 on Saturday, said that, “as a team I thought we did amazing but we came out a little bit slow the first match. … If we went against Liberty like we did Derry we would’ve won the match and probably been in the finals, and it looks like we would’ve won the whole thing.

“The biggest difference was that we came out slow and sluggish instead of firing off and being physical, letting the action come to us instead of advancing.”

Against Derry, Skyline opened with a 12-0 lead before the Trojans rallied to score 21 unanswered points.

Hawks junior 145-pounder Talon Keel got things rolling back in Skyline’s favor when he scored a reversal in the closing seconds to pick up a 5-4 decision, and senior Sam Brown pulled his own late-match heroics when he scored a takedown with five seconds remaining in his 160-pound bout for a 3-1 win that cut Derry’s lead to 24-18. Derrick Coleman’s third-period pin at 170 tied the match, a forfeit reclaimed the lead for Skyline and Gue’s pin 17 seconds into the third period clinched the victory.

Matt Keel said Skyline’s victories at 145 and 160 pounds against Derry, as well as Brandon Ahlemann’s 7-2 decision at 113 pounds, Dathen Montoya’s 5-4 win at 285 and close losses by Morgan Robinson and Anthony Domino at 126 and 152 pounds were matches in which the Hawks wrestled “above our talent level.”

Skyline carried that momentum into the third-place match against Lebanon. The Hawks used four straight pins from 113 to 132 pounds to build a 30-0 lead and finished the 57-15 win with six falls and a trio of wins by forfeit.

Ahlemann, Brown, Tyler Davis (106 pounds), Logan Maiatico (120) and Jacob Grady (182) – who lost to Lebanon’s Logan Smith, the 2017 VHSL Group 2A state runner-up, 4-3 in overtime – all finished 4-1 for Skyline.

Strasburg, another team fighting its own battles with youth, didn’t fare as well in its home tournament. The Rams went 0-4 in Pool A and needed a 51-18 win over Heritage in the ninth-place match to avoid finishing last in the annual event.

Strasburg fell to Parry McCluer, 39-30, in the opening round, lost 34-33 to Manassas Park in a match that was decided by tiebreaker criteria H (most first points scored) in the second, dropped a 44-28 match to tournament runner-up Wilson Memorial and fell to Lebanon, 43-33.

“Every one of those matches we either gave 18 or 24 (points in forfeits) depending on what I did,” Rams head coach Mike Wood said. “You erase those forfeits, again, which is the issue, you put in some even half capable bodies, those matches all change. It’s the youth, it’s giving up the forfeits that kill us.”

Wood did add that he saw some positives from Saturday, including an improvement from a 50-point loss to Wilson earlier this season. Rams sophomore 145-pounder Alec Campbell beat Michael Deegan 6-5 to avenge a loss by pin to the Wilson sophomore, and Strasburg picked up seven bonus points during a string of five straight victories from 120 to 145 pounds.

Senior 182-pounder Javian Moore, who was honored alongside classmate Austin Summerlin on Saturday as the Rams’ lone seniors, went 5-0 on the day, as did freshman 126-pounder Jaylon Burks.

“Really who’s chugging along for us and just keeps winning is Jaylon Burks at 26, and half of his matches today were at 32,” Wood said. “Some of them aren’t pretty but he’s winning. He went 5-0 today. Javian went 5-0. The problem is he got a couple forfeits. … Campbell was 4-1, I believe Peyton (Stickles at 120) was 4-1. So our main five to six guys are 4-1, 5-0 where we’re going to different tournaments, which is good. It’s just we’re really thin.”