WISE, Va. – The chant of “two” was heard early and often throughout the Prior Convocation Center on Saturday.
That was all the motivation Leighton Powell and his Rural Retreat teammates needed to storm through the 1A West Region wrestling tournament at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“Our fans always come out to support us, and that means a lot,” Powell said. “And, oh yeah, we can hear them. They’re pretty loud.”
A number of those loud Rural Retreat fans also carried large foam No. 2 fingers symbolic of a 2-point takedown.
The Indians got the message. Rural Retreat qualified 11 wrestlers to the semifinals in Friday’s opening round and that momentum carried over to Saturday’s finals.
The fun began early for Rural Retreat as Trey Boyd (106 pounds), Josh Wynn (113), Jacob Wynn (120) and Ty Boyd (126) all won their weight classes in dominating fashion.
Rural Retreat finished with 292.50 points behind eight individual champions. Galax (166.50), Patrick Henry (147), George Wythe (143.50) and Castlewood (132) were next in line among the 14 teams.
With the state tournament in Salem on the agenda for next weekend, Rural Retreat coach Rick Boyd was delighted with the performance.
“This was the first step to next weekend, so we had to go to work and the kids got after it,” he said. “And having a good fan base that travels well like this always helps.
Boyd credited the effort of his lighter weight “Boyd’s Bashers” for getting the party started.
“Those guys kind of set the tone for us,” Boyd said.
To a loud a chorus of cheers, the Rural Retreat run was finally halted at 132 pounds as Austin Tolbert of George Wythe defeated Marshall Taylor of RR by an 11-2 decision.
“Rural Retreat has a great team, obviously the best in 1A, so it’s good to kind of separate a few of their champions,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert noticed and heard the rowdy fan contingent from Rural Retreat.
“That can be very intimidating, but you’ve just have to go out on the mat with a clear mindset and wrestle your match,” Tolbert said. “I was a little worried because I’ve been really tired all day, but that all went away once the match started. I was able to get on the attack, use good defense and just keep wrestling.”
Tolbert and Taylor had swapped wins in recent weeks.
Following Tolbert’s statement victory, the Indians put together another streak with victories from Josh Penuel, Caleb Snider, Trent O’Neil and Leighton Powell.
“It was good to see Leighton put some offense together and get the win, and our other guys did well,” Coach Boyd said.
Powell earned a tense 5-3 decision over fiery Taylor Ayers from Radford.
“[Ayers] has been probably my toughest competition all season, and I’m looking forward to wrestling him again,” Powell said.
Perhaps the most anticipated match of the day unfolded at 182 pounds as Patrick Henry senior Zack Wright faced senior Joseph Dixon from Galax. Both players were football standouts.
“Of course, I remember Dixon,” Wright said. “He was a hoss at running back and he ran all over us in the playoffs.”
Wright posted a 4-0 decision over Dixon in a battle of brawn and brains.
“I respect Dixon, but it was nice to get him back today,” Wright said. “He’s probably the strongest guy I’ve ever wrestled, but I knew that my technique and fitness was going to be there for me because I’ve wrestled for the longest time.”
Wright was clinging to a 2-0 advantage in the third period when he added two points worth of insurance with a precise move.
“I was starting to get a little nervous there, but I was just determined that I wasn’t going to lose this,” Wright said. “By the third period, your legs are getting wobbly and you are running out of energy. I had to outlast him, so I kept digging deeper.”
Wright, who said his overall record is 128-21, has won two out of three matches against Dixon this season.
After a pair of wins from Caleb Spurlin (195) and Ben Sanchez (220) from Galax, Justin Hite of George Wythe capped the day with a 2-1 decision over Tyler Schenck from Eastside.
Despite the victory, the celebration was subdued from the Rural Retreat contingent.
“We just try to approach it as another day,” Powell said.
A day that ended with treacherous driving conditions as snow fell in Wise, Virginia, and most of the Mountain Empire.
Boyd had more concerns than the weather.
“It snows all the time in Rural Retreat, so it’s not a big deal,” he said. “I think we’ll have another good bunch of fans in Salem next week to support us.”