Knights escape PM with Pioneer title

FINCASTLE – The James River wrestlers won their fourth straight Pioneer District wrestling tournament when the Knights edged Parry McCluer last week, 158-154. Both schools had six district champions as River hosted the three-team tournament in Buchanan. Covington was third with 96 points.

“I knew the score was going to be really close, even before the tournament started,” said LB coach Tim Jennings. “I actually didn’t expect it to turn out the way it did.  I went into the final match expecting us to get second because the Blues had picked up some extra advancement and pin points.”

But the Knights also picked up some crucial points along the way. Cody Snead advanced to the finals after his Covington opponent took an injury default in the semis and Matt Middlecamp also advanced to the finals by beating the Parry McCluer 285 pounder for the second time in as many weeks, both of which were decided by one point. 

“The kids pulled through and I was pretty excited for them,” said Jennings.

District champs from River included Luke Arney at 126, Michael Lancenese at 152, Kyle King at 160, Creek Turner at 170, Tyler Harlow at 182, and Ian Batterson at 220. Seconds went to Snead at 106, Jonny Lancenese at 120, Jordan Aylor at 145, Owen Deacon at 195, and Middlecamp at 285.  Chris Sowers took third at 132.

“Owen’s match was definitely the most exciting of the evening,” said Jennings of Deacon’s 195 pound final. “He and the Parry McCluer kid had wrestled twice before with Owen winning both of them, but he had definitely worked really hard and came gunning for Owen. He scored a late take down in the third to tie it at 3-3, and kinda stunned Owen. He eventually turned him and picked up the 6-3 win.

After that I really thought they had won it, but Batterson’s win and Matt’s second place finish put us ahead by four.  It was tight, but a win is still a win.”

All the place winners will advance to this weekend’s Region C tournament at Galax. Most folks are picking Rural Retreat as the favorite.

“The regions should be really interesting this year,” said Jennings.  “Rural Retreat, at least according to the papers and internet, is probably the favorite, but I wouldn’t count several other teams out, us included.

“It’s all about matchups now and how bad the kids want it,” Jennings continued.   “We’ve been really working hard the last couple weeks on staying focused and determined, and taking things one-step-at-a-time. That’s been our motto – one period, one man, one round at a time. Traveling to Galax will certainly weigh on the focus issue, but I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got a good solid group of kids that are seasoned by this point, so as long as we take care of the little things that we can control, I think we’ll do well.”

The top four wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the state Group A tournament at Salem on February 17 and 18.

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