Freshman Dylan Hitt represented the Panther Nation in Strasburg at the Region B wrestling tournament last Saturday (Feb. 12) and walked away with an admirable fifth place and an alternate slot in this weekend’s state tournament.
The first match placed Hitt on the mat with the No. 1 seed in the South. “He didn’t wrestle badly at all,” coach Jamie Harris reported. “He lost 11-4, but the kid was a senior wrestler, super strong and flexible.”
In the consolation round of the quarterfinals, Hitt pinned the wrestler from Riverheads. “Dylan wrestled well and aggressively,” coach Harris said. “That set up a re-match in the consolation semifinals with a kid he beat earlier in the season.”
Harris continued, “Hitt pulled off a reversal to be up 4-0 by the end of first period in the semifinals. The Chatham opponent got a reversal on Hitt and put him on his back.”
Going into the third period the Rappahannock wrestler was ahead 5-4. “Dylan tried putting the kid on his back,” coach Harris said. “So we cut him loose for 6-4.”
“Then Dylan got the takedown to tie it with less than six seconds left. He came back — hanging on trying to get the overtime. The ref called ‘locking hands’ on Dylan. It was a controversial penalty call because no one saw it happen, including the opposing coach. That automatically put the kid back on his feet with seven seconds left. Dylan got in good on the leg, but couldn’t get the pin. He lost 8-6. It was a tough loss. He went 2-2 on the day and 34 wins on the season,” Harris said.
Regionals are no cakewalk, the Rappahannock coach noted. “Dylan’s finish means that if someone from our region cannot compete, he will slide into their slot.”
Last year at the state tournament there were several scratches, and one of the alternates won a medal. “The possibilities are a long shot, but he’s gonna keep working out. We will be ready in case he (Hitt) gets the call,” Harris said.
“It’s heartbreaking when you have your goals set so high. That’s a lot of pressure for a freshman. He went to a regional tournament and was only one match away from a solid spot in the state tournament. Now, he’s on pace for a 100-win career.”
The Single-A and Double-A state wrestling tournament will be at the Salem Civic Center on Friday and Saturday (Feb 18-19).
Lady Panthers make quarterfinals
The Lady Panthers beat the Lady Cougars in a tense battle at home Feb. 9 against Manassas Park 36-31. Their win secured fourth place in the Bull Run district and a quarterfinal home game on Feb. 11 against the very same opponent. The Ladies ended their season with a 57-52 slug-out loss.
The Feb. 9 game presented an opportunity to honor the Panthers’ senior athletes in their final basketball season. Brittani Dodson, Paula Accioly, Lauren Settle and Joslyn Smith garnered applause and bid farewell to the hometown crowd.
Rappahannock got off to a slow start as the team trailed, 12-6, in the first quarter and 18-13 at the half. “The girls came out in the second half determined not to make it their last home game,” coach Robbie Thornhill reported. “They outscored Manassas Park, 23-13, in the last half.” Smith brought the high-score accolades with 16 points, and Lauren Light earned eight.
The Panthers were excited about earning their home court slot in the district quarterfinals on Feb. 11, but their hopes were extinguished in a tough loss that ended any chance of a regional berth.
“The girls battled all night,” coach Thornhill said. “But they could not overcome Manassas Park’s free throws. Cougars made 16 of 21, while we only attempted eight all game. Olivia Hayden-Pless shot 18 points and Light had 14.
“The game was actually crazy in the first half as our girls played some great offense — passing to teammates around and over and under their zone. They got lots of praise from the fans who had not seen that kind of passing in a long time. In the second half, we just had some defensive breakdowns and a few missed short shots. Sometimes they fall. Other times, they don’t.”
In the end, coach Thornhill reflected on his team and their season. “I had tremendous support from the parents and would like to thank them for putting their trust in me to teach these girls the great game of basketball. They practiced and played hard all season. We got plenty of compliments from other schools on how our girls never quit but played tough even though some games had the odds stacked high against us. I’d like to thank them for everything.”
Flying high at Randolph-Macon
Grace Alexander, a freshman at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, has been selected to be part of the academy’s inaugural “High Flight” class. Alexander is the daughter of Lyle and Mindy Alexander of Woodville.
High Flight is R-MA’s specialized track for students who have aspirations of attending a United States service academy and pursuing a career as a military officer.
Interested cadets completed an application and were subsequently interviewed. A selection committee reviewed all of the applications, interviews, and the applicants’ performance in academics, extracurricular activities, and AFJROTC at R-MA. Seven of the 15 students who applied to the program were accepted.
The students were recognized as formal members of the High Flight Program on Monday (Feb. 14). All High Flight students will receive a $2,000 scholarship for each year they are in attendance at R-MA and participating in the program.