Small team, large achievements mark Panther wrestling

This winter, Rappahannock wrestlers have been persevering through small team numbers to show their individual prowess and Panther Pride. Beyond the mats, the Panthers have battled to harness athletes for their season. In the midst of the struggle, personal triumphs prevail in this tenacious group.

Rappahannock welcomed the new year with two tough competitions on the road. Last Wednesday (Jan. 4), the team traveled to Strasburg for a Bull Run district meet. “We wrestled Manassas Park and Strasburg, who both have top programs in the state,” coach Galen Weyer said. “We went 3-54 against Strasburg and 6-50 against Manassas Park. We only had seven wrestlers and, even though the other teams were far more experienced, most of our guys held their own. Dylan Hitt and Zack Armor won their matches.”

“I went 1-1 when I beat the Strasburg kid and lost to the Manassas Park wrestler,” Hitt said. “Then the Strasburg kid beat the Manassas Park kid. We all went 1-1. I didn’t feel well and wrestled poorly. Yes, I won one, but I should’ve won by a lot more. I wasn’t confident with my moves.”

On Saturday (Jan. 7), Panther wrestlers attended the Bison Duals in Buffalo Gap.

Junior Patrick Foley, whose personal story mirrors the Panther team’s obstacles, had a very successful dual day. “I’ve had two injuries this season.” Even with injuries and recovery time, Foley is currently 15-7.

“Our team started off with a decent amount of wrestlers,” Foley said. “Then injuries and other complications took guys out.”

“I went 4-1 at the duals,” said Foley. “The first match I lost, but the last four I won. The first one always happens before you completely have your adrenaline rush. Plus, I woke up at 4:50 in the morning to catch the bus by 5:45 for the two-hour ride over the mountains. That makes the first match more challenging. It is a mindset you have to be in.

“My favorite match of the day,” Foley said, “was when I bumped up one weight class to 170 [from 160]. I beat the guy, even though I was nervous going into it. I wasn’t sure what to expect because he weighed 10 pounds more than me, and I’d never gone up a weight class before. I had him on his back during first and second periods, but the time kept running out, so it was third period before I pinned him. After Manassas Park and Strasburg, it was good to come back and win.”

Hitt, a sophomore, posted 5-0 for his day: “This weekend, I had two matches with pins, one tech fall and 2 major decisions.

“My highlight was the Appomattox match,” Hitt said. He was a tough kid. I could tell by simply wrestling him. I was thinking if I get a chance to pin the kid, I will. I got the chance and did it. It wasn’t like my other matches that day where I was working points. I ran a bar and a wing on him, the way I pin a lot of the kids I wrestle. Instead of working for points, I really had to focus hard in that match.”

Coach Weyer reported his team final score as 1-4. “We only had five wrestlers,” he said. “Alexis Heckethorn went 2-0, Hitt 5-0, Armor 3-2, Foley 4-1, and Trey Swindler 2-3. As a team, we lose these matches due to not enough wrestlers. But, overall this season, we have individually won more matches than we have lost.”

Panther wrestlers take to the mats again this Friday and Saturday (Jan. 13-14) at Eastern View High School in Culpeper, the only tournament of the season, where Rappahannock will be among 24 area teams.