Panthers thin on wrestlers but not on talent

Panther wrestlers hosted their first Bull Run District home meet of the season Dec. 14 and posted team losses of 42-28 against Randolph-Macon and 50-18 against Clarke County. On Saturday, Dec. 17, they made the long trek to Washington and Lee and brought back bragging rights from the tournament by posting a team win against Essex County.

After forfeiting six weight classes for lack of athletes in the home meet, Rappahannock still won individual matches and celebrated personal victories. “Once again, we had to forfeit classes and start in a bad situation,” coach Galen Weyer said. Even with the forfeits, the Panthers won three of the eight weight classes against Clarke County and tallied individual wins with Dylan Hitt and Smith Cliffton.

“In my first match against R-MA, the kid was on the side of the mat,” Hitt said. “You can’t pin when they’re out of bounds, so I had my legs in bounds to kick out his legs in a Saturday Night Ride move. I pinned him with double grapes – both my arms spread wide over him. I was really shocked that the ref called the pin. I was kinda disappointed because I was planning to work him for points”

For the second phase of the evening at home, the Panthers took on the Eagles. “I went in not as aggressively against Clarke,” Hitt said. “That led to a terrible first period. He threw legs in and rode me out. I hate being taken down in the first period. After that, he started on bottom, reversed me. I reversed him and put him in a barnyard kind of move. When the score going into the third period was 7-4, I remember wondering if I should go bottom or neutral. I went neutral and got a quick take down. Then I rode the kid out, threw in a leg, pulled a guillotine, got my points, hipped over on top and pinned him with double grapes. Yep, it was the same move I used against RMA. It was that kind of night.”

The Washington and Lee tournament saw six Panther wrestlers on the road at 4 a.m. for their long drive. “We only sent six wrestlers due to sickness and other kids’ work schedules,” Weyer said. “Overall, we individually won more matches than we lost. Dylan Hitt won all five of his matches. Smith Cliffton and Patrick Foley went 4-1, Trey Swindler went 3-2 and Zach Armor was 2-3.” Dylan Hitt earned recognition as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.

“A couple of guys have made great progress and won close matches,” Weyer said.

“I am very proud of how the team beat Essex with just the few of us,” Hitt added.

The Panthers prowled onto the competition mats again Wednesday (Dec. 21) in Central Woodstock. Results in next week’s News.

Lady Panthers, Light
suffer tough week

In a triple-loss week before the holiday break, Lady Panthers basketball fell at home and away against their Bull Run District opponents. In a costly Thursday night (Dec. 8) 40-24 loss to Riverfront Christian, Rappahannock witnessed the serious injury of captain Lauren Light [see the related letter on page 4]. With Light on the disabled list, Panthers traveled to Nelson County the next night (Dec. 9) and fell to the Governors. “We had a tough outing against an aggressive team out for a Friday night showing in front of their home crowd,” coach Rich Hogan said.

“Maddie Kopjanski has stepped up as a team leader on the court and off,” Hogan said. “Klair Gubler and Jane Purnell saw a lot of action. The whole team saw playing time and the lopsided score did not really indicate a hard-fought battle that got a little out of hand in the fourth quarter. We lost, 45-10.”

Tuesday night saw the Lady Panthers succumb to Manassas Park in Rappahannock. But again the 41-33 outcome did not tell the whole story. The girls played a tough game to the very end.

“Going into it, we knew they’d be hard to beat,” Klaire Gubler.“I guess it was kind of unexpected that we were winning in the first half. Our spirits got high, and we really wanted to beat them. We saw they weren’t as good as we thought they were. Our confidence was boosted.

“The last quarter was really intense,” she said. “We were only losing by eight after being behind by 15 at one point. I was doing more rebounding than usual. I’m not as aggressive as Maddie [Kopjanski] or others. My first response has always been to protect myself, but last night I was more aggressive. I even got two fouls.”

At the end of the night, Gubler had earned one special bragging right. “I got one three-pointer and beat my mom’s high school record of zero.”

The Lady Panthers meet Luray tonight (Thursday, Dec. 22) at home. Game time is 6:15.

– M.D.

Wakefield sports

Varsity Swimming: The Owls traveled to the Freedom Center for a meet hosted by Seton School Dec. 10. In addition to many complements from officials and other coaches about the team’s sportsmanship and excellent efforts, Rachel DuMez had two first-place finishes and Michael O’Heir had one first-place finish.

Varsity girls basketball: The Lady Owls hosted the Saint John’s Saints of Front Royal in a non-conference game Dec. 8 in which the girls took a 7-3 lead into the second quarter and stretched it to an 18-11 lead at halftime. The Saints outscored the girls 12-4 to take a one-point lead into the final period. The girls missed 10 foul shots in regulation while the Saints shot 100 percent from the line. Maeve Dale led the team in scoring with 20 points, including a big three-pointer late in regulation to tie the game at 30. Emily Hennessey had four points in the game, including two foul shots in the last minute of the overtime period to put the girls up by two points. Kim Pankow and Makenzie Magaro scored seven points each in the thrilling 35-33 overtime win.

Varsity boys basketball: The Owls hosted the Saint John’s Saints of Front Royal in a non-conference game Dec. 8 – and the boys also came through with a thrilling win in overtime against a quick and talented St. John’s team. The teams were evenly matched. The boys were down 23-18 at the half, but outscored the Saints 17-15 in the third period to trail by only three points going into the fourth quarter.

The boys used the foul line to catch the Saints after going only one-for-five from the foul line in the first three quarters, hitting 16 of 17 from the line in the fourth quarter and in overtime, with Alex Foster hitting 9 of 10 and Maxime Manzi netting all four of his free throws. The Owls dominated the overtime period, outscoring St. John’s 12-4 for a hard-fought 60-52 victory.

After struggling in the first half, Manzi and Foster combined for 27 points and 14 rebounds in the second half, sparking the comeback. Greg Czekaj had another strong shooting game from the three-point line hitting four of 11. Daniel Chadduck played a great game defensively, holding St. John’s top scorer to no points in the last quarter and overtime. Alex Harris hit a huge three-pointer with less than four minutes to go in the final quarter to put the boys up by a point. Foster led the team with a double–double, 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Wakefield athletic director Mike Costello said he had not experienced a night where both games went into overtime in his more than 20-year athletic administration career.

Young Panther team
set on improvement

In a three-game week, Panther boys basketball netted three losses and the determination to continue improving, as the young team struggles through its first full season back in Bull Run District competition.

Two home games brought Strasburg and East Rockingham to Rappahannock. Last Friday (Dec. 16), the Panthers fell to Strasburg, 69-21. Tanyon Lee took the team lead with 10 points. Bradlee Frye shot for five. Both Grayson Love and Ben Estes netted two. Against East Rockingham, Frye led with 10. Estes followed-up with five. Lee and Love both earned four points. R.T. Leake scored two, and Stephen Guadillo added one.

The team’s most recent loss came in their only road trip of the week. The Clarke County Eagles defeated the Panthers, 80-31. Frye kept his top-scoring position with 10 points. Lee was close behind with eight. Love added seven, and Evan Hitt brought six.

Hitt, who had some great drives to earn his points, commented on the competition. “Clarke was not as big height-wise as the teams we have been playing, but they were mostly juniors and seniors,” Hitt said. “Our team is now almost all ninth- and 10th-graders.”

Coach Terrence Johnson remains focused on building this Panther team. “The scores may not reflect what we want yet, but the only thing emphasized in practice is fundamentals.”

“We still like the game, and we’re having fun,” Hitt said. “I wish we had some older players, but this group will stick it through. We are working hard so next year we’ll see more success.”

Panthers take their home court again tonight (Thursday, Dec. 22) against the Luray Bulldogs. Game time is 7:45.

– M.D.