They remember the bitter disappointment of being upset a year ago. The Hanover Hawks wrestlers and head coach Aaron Bradley were determined not to taste it again.
Sending 10 wrestlers to the finals and earning eight individual Capital District titles, the Hawks cruised to the 2013 team title Saturday at Glen Allen High School, scoring 234 points. Runner-up Lee-Davis, upset winners in 2012, finished second with 197.5, while Glen Allen finished third. The young Atlee Raiders placed fifth, scoring 117 points.
Leading the Hawks was a group of experienced young men, mostly underclassmen, who clinched the district team title in the semifinals, going an impressive 10-0 in that round. The Confederates only managed five finalists; the Jaguars had four.
“We believed in the training, we put the work in. The hard part is done in practice, preparing for three months for today, and I told the guys just get out there and enjoy it,” Bradley said.
Bradley was named 2013 Capital District Coach of the Year at the end of the meet.
Returning champions for the Hawks included sophomore J.D. Gregory, who rolled over Lee-Davis freshman Hayden Keener by technical fall at 113 pounds. Gregory won last year at 106 pounds. Michael Flora stepped up from 120 to 126 and held off county rival Sawyer Barksdale of Lee-Davis 6-4 in the finals. Flora was down 4-3 with 30 seconds left before scoring one to tie, then two more on a takedown with only 10 seconds remaining. All of the scoring in the match came during the final two minutes. For his season-long efforts, Flora was named Capital District Most Outstanding Wrestler for 2012-13.
Corbin Allen, at 138 pounds, turned in the quickest title performance, pinning Mark Kilgore of Atlee in just 1:47 for victory, while at 152 pounds, Michael Engels learned from Flora’s playbook, scoring two points with 35 seconds left to win 3-2 over Varina’s Daniel Dodd. Lee-Davis senior Mark Reisenweaver, who fell to Dodd in the semis, rebounded to win the third place match at 152.
Youth was served when freshman T.J. Allen improved his season mark to 21-9, winning the 160-pound final 7-4 over senior Zakeel Muhammad of Henrico. Atlee’s Charlie Bevin, who lost to Muhammad in the semis, grabbed third place.
Two final county matchups in the championship round both went to the Hawks. Senior Jacob Nussbaum outlasted Lee-Davis’ Taylor Campbell 6-2 at 182 pounds. In one of the best matches of the entire tournament, Hanover’s Bishop Guempel stayed within sight of Atlee junior Tanner Bazemore, then scored two in the final seconds to win at 170 pounds, 6-5.
“It was exhilarating, that’s for sure,” Guempel said. “Only having six matches this year, I was a little out of gas. When it came down to that last 14 seconds, I decided to make a move and it came up my way.”
Guempel admitted he waited until time was almost up before going for the winning takedown so that Bazemore would have no time to return the favor if it worked. The gamble paid off.
In the upset of the night, Hanover’s Christian Unger, the heavy favorite at 195 pounds, was leading Varina’s Caleb Harding 9-5 when, with just 35 seconds remaining, Harding took advantage of one small opening, took Unger to his shoulders, and, 11 seconds later, pinned him for the victory. Ironically, all of Unger’s 12 wins this season took place in round one. He will look to improve conditioning for the upcoming Central Region tournament Friday and Saturday at Manchester High School.
For Lee-Davis, sophomore Chris Morris came through with a championship at 120 pounds by shutting out Tyler Flora of Hanover 3-0. Atlee’s Bobby Jackson took third in the weight class. Morris felt fortunate to take the crown.
“I felt sluggish and slow, and he [Tyler Flora] has really improved on his feet,” Morris noted just after the victory. “He was tough. I expected it to be a good match.”
Hanover’s Brad Kemp was runner-up at 220 pounds, falling by major decision to Ammar Jabbar of Henrico.
Other county third-place finishers included Lee-Davis’ T.J. Coleman (195), Reid Hues (132), Chase Cordle (145), and Adam Stokes (170), plus Atlee’s Blake Glover at 106.
Lee-Davis sends the most wrestlers to the Central Region Tourney from Hanover County with 12, followed by Hanover (10), Atlee (5), and Patrick Henry will send seven as a result of their third-place team finish at last weekend’s Colonial District Tournament at Mills Godwin High School. Blake Barnhill won the district crown at 195 pounds, while Brian Smith placed second at 132, as did Jake Harris at 170.
Becca Forsythe of Patrick Henry became one of two women to qualify for Central Region competition by finishing third in the 106-pound division, besting Justin Leung of Maggie Walker Governor’s School by pinfall in 59 seconds.