Panther Seven headed for wrestling regionals

After a season of injuries, varied roster numbers at competitions and struggles on the mats, Rappahannock’s varsity wrestlers swept through the Bull Run District Tournament last Saturday. All seven Panther wrestlers qualified for this weekend’s (Feb. 10-11) Region B Tournament in Strasburg. 

Dylan Hitt, Pat Foley, and Jesus Lucas all placed fourth in the tournament. “Dylan had missed the previous week and half due to a shoulder injury and hadn’t wrestled,” coach Galen Weyer said. “We were lucky to get him back in time.” The quartet’s high finish ensured their competitive seeding at regionals.

“The rest of the team also wrestled very well,” Weyer said. Zack Armor and Matt Lombardi finished fifth in their weight divisions, while first year wrestlers Alexis Heckethorn and Brian “Next Victim” Kelley finished sixth. “Due to pulling off upsets and having favorable seeding,” Weyer said, “they were able to extend their wrestling season for another week.”

“I’m honestly really proud of our team this year,” Lombardi said. “We’ve been fighting through all these AAA tournaments against all odds. Even with only seven wrestlers, we came out with two team wins this season. Then, at districts last Saturday, Brian Kelly really had to fight to get to regions with his sixth-place finish. Hitt and Foley wrestled amazing for fourth.

“In my match, got an epic pin in the final seconds,” he said. “I was about to get tech-falled. That would’ve been 15 points down, and that would’ve been it for me. The Central wrestler was about to roll me on my back, but I did this weird alternate Peterson move. I’m on all fours, and he was horizontal on my back trying to get me down on the mat. I hooked one of his legs and one of his arms and just rolled with him. It took a lot of hip strength, but I pinned him with 7.5 seconds left.

“Before the match,” Lombardi said, “I was thinking, I’m going to get last in this tournament and have to face the strongest guy in the region . . . so I better fight now. I really felt like an underdog. This kid was strong in technique. I took some risks that led to me almost being teched, but I revived my strength and it paid off. He was not happy at the end of the match, but my mom was. She was in the top row jumping up and down.”

Athletic director Jimmy Swindler reported that the Bull Run is acknowledged as the most competitive district in Region B. “Being able to qualify from our own district tournament sets our wrestlers up very well for success at the regional tournament,” he said. “Coach Weyer and assistant coaches Andrew Weyer and James Lofton will be fine-tuning their wrestlers all week at practice to have them in top form for Friday’s events.”

Wrestlers take to the mats in Strasburg at 3 p.m. Friday (Feb. 10) and continue at 10 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 11). Swindler delivered an invitation to the county: “Rapp fans are encouraged to come out and cheer on these hard-working student athletes.”

“We are hoping to send a couple to states,” Weyer said.