FRONT ROYAL -- It wasn’t the championship trophy, but Skyline’s wrestling team was content with the hardware it left its home gym with at the conclusion of the Appalachian Duals on Saturday afternoon.
The Hawks, the hosts of a 16-team field at its annual December tournament, finished in second place at the end of the two-day competition, coming up short of the title with a 45-31 loss to Woodbridge in the championship match.
“It’s not first,” Hawks junior 152-pounder Anthony Domino said, “but for a team that’s pretty beat up right now, we’re dealing with some injuries, some things that don’t always go our way, and we’re still able to pull this tournament out and get second; it feels great.”
Skyline had to get through its cross-town rival to get there, and its 38-33 win over Warren County in the semifinals was the highlight of the tournament for the Hawks. The victory snapped a streak of four straight head-to-head losses to the Wildcats, last season’s VHSL Class 3 state runners-up.
“For the group, it meant a lot, but for me, it meant more,” Skyline 182-pounder Jacob Grady said of beating the Wildcats, “because me being the only senior on the team, I’ve been waiting three years for this, and it finally happened. We’ve all been working our butts off, and it finally paid off.”
Playing the matchups from the start against Warren County, the Hawks took a forfeit at 152 pounds and bumped Domino to 160, where he pinned Brennan Komelasky to tie the match at 6-all.
The two rivals traded pins in the next two bouts before a thriller at 195 gave Warren County a 15-12 lead. In that match, Skyline Chris Moin rallied to take a late lead after a takedown and a penalty point with four seconds remaining in the third period, only to see Austin Ramey score a quick reversal off a restart to earn the 5-4 win.
Skyline’s Taja Showers, who flipped weight classes with teammate Ethan Gue, knotted the score again when she picked up a 9-7 decision over Wesley Merchant at 220, starting a string of four straight Hawk wins that included a trio of pins. Gue handed Warren County sophomore Tony Bitter his only loss of the tournament with a quick pin in 32 seconds in the 285-pound bout, and Joshua Domino and Tyler Davis added falls at 106 and 113 to give Skyline a 33-15 lead.
“We knew we were underdogs coming into the match and we wanted to get as hype and feel as good as we can about the match, go out, do what we need to do and handle our business,” Domino said. “We came away with the victory, and it felt good.”
Warren County won four of the final five matches in the dual, but Brandon Ahlemann’s pin at 126 gave the Hawks enough cushion to hold off the Wildcats.
“We told (the Wildcats) this isn’t the last time we’re gonna see them,” Warren County head coach Matt Wadas said. “One win or one loss will not define our season. The biggest thing I said is that’s some respect. They had to bump people all around to try to beat us, and we just put out our lineup there. And good move on their part, they’re well coached, a good team. I said that’s not something to get upset about, that’s something to rally forward for.”
Skyline couldn’t match that success in the championship match against Woodbridge.
After forfeiting the opening bout at 170, Skyline tied the score with Grady’s first-period pin. Moin’s 3-2 decision, which went all the way to the ultimate tiebreaker period, and Gue’s pin at 220 pounds gave Skyline a 15-6 lead, but the Vikings answered with pins at 285 and 106.
The Hawks briefly regained a 1-point lead following Davis’ major decision, but three straight Woodbridge wins -- including two pins at 120, 126 and 132 -- gave the Vikings the lead for good. Morgan Robinson’s pin at 138 pulled Skyline within 33-25, but two more Woodbridge pins sandwiched Anthony Domino’s fall to close out the tournament.
“We wrestled Woodbridge pretty good,” Hawks head coach Kyle Symons said. “Woodbridge has a really solid team. To get second, we had a lot of good teams here. Obviously our goal was first when it started, but taking second’s big, and obviously, we had a real big match there in the semis with Warren County, and to be able to win that one, cross-town rivalry, and it’s been a long time since they’ve been able to say that. It goes to show a lot with where these kids are at and the culture and the mentality we’re asking them to wrestle with, to be able to get over the hump.”
Davis (three pins), Domino (five pins) and Grady (four pins) all finished 6-0 for the Hawks over the two-day tournament, which Skyline opened with wins over Riverside (64-18), Osbourn Park (69-12) and Rock Ridge (51-21) in pool play on Friday.
Skyline topped Kettle Run, 48-27, in its first match of the championship bracket on Saturday morning.
“I’m really proud of all of them,” Symons said. “We’re proud of where the mentality’s at. We’re proud of what the toughness level is. We’re proud of where the culture is. They’ve accepted what we’re trying to instill with being a new coaching staff.”
Warren County rebounded from its loss to Skyline to finish in third place, topping Patrick Henry, 52-27, in its final match of the tournament. The Wildcats rolled through Fauquier (62-15) to reach the third-place match.
“It’s not what our goal was,” Wadas said of taking third, “but I’m really happy with the team effort we put in, especially after a loss. The way we rallied back, I can’t be prouder of that.”
Hunter Jost (138 pounds; three pins), Bobby Hunger (145; five pins) and Isaiah Frame (152; four pins) each finished the tournament 7-0 for the Wildcats. Warren County opened pool play with wins over Rappahannock County (78-6), Osbourn (53-30) and Fauquier (52-27) and reached the semifinal round with a 43-32 win over Patrick Henry on Saturday morning.