In the midst of holiday celebrations, Panther wrestlers skipped calorie-dense desserts and focused on preparing for battle. On Dec. 28 and 29, Rappahannock County High School hosted the first annual Panther Christmas Brawl.
Day 1 of the Duals saw Rappahannock in pool competition with Central-Woodstock, William Monroe, Warren County B, and engaged in a crossover match with Massaponax.
On the mats with Central-Woodstock, the Panthers trailed 18-0 before CJ Sidrow (112) earned a pin to score the first points. “From there,” coach Jamie Harris said, “a Dylan Hitt pin at 130 scored the decisive points and we took advantage of four Falcon forfeits to score a 48-30 win.”
Next up was a much improved William Monroe, who a week earlier advanced to the championship round of the Mountaineer Duals in Madison County. Rapp again trailed 12-0, before Sidrow (103), Zack Armor (119), Hitt (130), Matt Lombardi (135), Patrick Foley (140), Smith Cliffton (152), and Tanyon Lee (160) all picked up pins propel the Panthers to a 48-36 win.
The Panthers met Warren County B in the third match. “This was a dogfight from the get go,” coach Harris said. “Warren County got an upset decision at 103 when Thomson decisioned CJ Sidrow 9-4.” Armor, Cody Casey (125), Hitt, Lombardi, and Lee all executed pins and helped edge the Wildcats 36-33.
In the final matchup of the day, Rappahannock faced off against AAA Massaponax. “We were caught in another dogfight and needed one of our comebacks,” Harris said. “This time Casey picked up a tech fall win 24-8, Hitt benefited from a major decision with a 10-2 win, Lombardi followed with a pin, Armit Tamang (145) followed with another pin, and Smith Cliffton ended the suspense with pins as well.” Sidrow picked up a crucial forfeit at 103. The Panthers prevailed 33-30.
At the end of the first day, Rappahannock was 4-0 in tournament action with Hitt and Tamang holding perfect 4-0 records.
Day 2 of the Brawl brought opposite results as Panthers matched up in the championship pool with Broadway (AA), Colonial Heights (AAA), Benedictine (Private), and the ever-present Bull Run rival Strasburg. “Facing off with these veteran teams could have been overwhelming for the young Panthers,” coach Harris said, “but they did not back down from the tough competition.”
In the first match, Broadway overcame the Panthers 51-19. Sidrow at 103, Lombardi, Tamang, and Lee all posted wins.
Panthers met Colonial Heights in the second match. Coach Harris recounted: “We battled the AAA school tooth and nail before losing 42-36.” Hitt, Foley, Casey, Tamang, and Lee picked up victories for Rappahannock.
The Panthers struggled against Benedictine in the third match, while Sidrow, Hitt, Armor, Casey, and Lee earned wins. The final score was Benedictine 54, Rapp 24.
Strasburg challenged Rapp in the final match of the day. The Panthers scored wins by Sidrow, Casey, and Lee only to fall to the Rams 52-15.
Overall, Rappahannock finished fifth out of 12 schools with a 4-4 mark in the dual action format. Broadway won the Brawl with a perfect 8-0 record. Colonial Heights earned second from its 7-1 mark. Strasburg finished third at 6-2, and Benedictine came in fourth with 5-3.
“We were missing four weight classes in the tournament,” coach Harris explained, “and going into each match, we were already down 24-0. So for us to get four wins is pretty impressive. We beat two AA schools, one AAA school, and A Central. I thought we wrestled really well on Day 1, but on Day 2 our youth and relative inexperience showed against much better and tougher competition. We had Sidrow (103/112) go 7-1, Hitt 6-2, Tamang 6-2, and Lee 6-2. Casey was 5-3, and Lombardi was 4-4. Armor, Cliffton, and Foley picked up some critical pins. That means six of my 10 wrestlers posted winning records in eight matches.”
One major Brawl highlight came when Dylan Hitt was selected the most outstanding wrestler for Rappahannock County. “The kid really deserved it,” coach Harris said. “He wrestled his butt off and impressed many coaches.”
Hitt recounted his performance. “Personally, I was 4-0 the first day. Second day, I went 2-2. I could’ve easily won. Makes me sick just thinking about it. Near the end of the matches, I was doing some risky moves trying to get points back. What made me most upset though was my loss to the Strasburg wrestler. He kept hitting me with a Peterson roll. It was the first time I’d ever seen that move.
“I enjoyed the tournament, but I gotta go back to practice today and redo everything.” To be an award-winning wrestler, Hitt said: “Work your hardest. Don’t slack off. Listen to everything you can about technique. It will win over strength and quickness most of the time. Get in the wrestling room and work. Take all the chances you can get.”
The Panthers are now 8-8. “We are two wins away from breaking the school record,” coach Harris shared, “and these are being achieved by a team that consists of two seniors, two juniors, six sophomores, and five freshmen.”
The Panthers next battle was a Wednesday (Jan. 5) quad at Madison County, where Rapp faced Madison, Kettle Run, and Randolph Macon Academy. On Friday (Jan. 8), the team travels to Buffalo Gap for the Bison Duals. Coach Harris elaborated: “That is a long awaited rematch with my alma mater, Northwood, where my younger brother is an assistant coach.”