It is not unusual for the Northwestern District wrestling title to come down to the final match, but a late script change saw the Handley Judges take a leading role.
With only the 285-pound gold medal bout remaining, Kettle Run held a 197-193 lead over Handley. Handley's Rodd'ney Davenport stepped onto the mat to meet Fauquier's Gavin Robertson. Davenport registered a second period fall, and the six additional team points vaulted the Judges over the Cougars for the team title, 199-197 with Liberty third with 192.5.
"It's always going to be a little bit heartbreaking when you are two points away," said Kettle Run coach Mike Foy. "Going in, we felt we could win it. We put ourselves in a position to do so, but Handley just took over there right at the end. But I am very, very happy with the way my guys wrestled. I couldn't have asked for anything else. They went out and did their job."
Liberty finished a strong third with 192.5 points to 174 for Fauquier and 92 for Culpeper. The top four place winners in each weight earned berths in this Saturday's Class 4 Region C meet at Tuscarora.
Entering the championship round, Kettle Run was in first place with 186 points ahead of Handley (177.5), Liberty (168), Fauquier (162) and Culpeper (80). The Cougars had the most finalists with eight to seven for Fauquier and six for Handley. Liberty advanced five to the finals and Culpeper two.
The Cougars excelled in the championship semifinal round, recording eight victories, seven via fall to give the squad two additional points for each pin. "That's huge. "That's where I knew we had to get points," said Foy.
Foy said six of his 12 wrestlers competed up one weight due to a surfeit of lower and middle weights. He lauded the sacrifice of those wrestlers "to give us the best possible team."
Kettle Run came away with two gold medalists in Luke Sturges (113 pounds) and Kyle Brumagin (126).
Led by four-time district champion Mason Barrett (132), Liberty had four individual titlists to tie Handley for the most. Other Eagle winners were Colin Dupill (138), Noah Hall (145) and Royce Hall (195). Fauquier had a pair of winners in Eric DeWald (160) and Kingsley Menifee (182). Culpeper had two victors.
Liberty is sending a district-high 13 wrestlers to the regional competition to 12 for Handley. Kettle Run and Fauquier both advanced 11 and Culpeper six.
Wrestlers must advance to the regional finals in their respective weight because only the top two in each classification qualify for the state Class 4 state tournament instead of the usual four. The Virginia High School League reduced the number in response to COVID-19 concerns.
The state Class 4 meet is Feb. 20 in Virginia Beach.