Powhatan adds 44-33 win over Atlee for sweep of Wednesday's home tri meet
POWHATAN – He was just here, in this same kind of spot, four days before.
In the opening leg of Saturday's Hawk Duals, Powhatan sophomore Dylan Coward had wrestled in the match that would decide the winner between his Indians and hosting team Hanover. He had battled into overtime, but came up just short, and the Hawks grabbed the narrow team victory.
And then, in Wednesday’s home tri meet, the Indians held a 4-point lead over visiting Cosby, who had beaten them in the same tri last year at Cosby High School. With just two individual matches to go in the dual - in the 106 and 113 weight classes - Powhatan was in a position to secure the win at 106 with a 3-point decision.
The Indians turned to Coward, who started the night at 113, but weighed 106 and could bump back down to that weight class.
“I just wanted to redeem myself,” Coward said. “I felt like I needed to do it for my team.”
The match was in his hands. The team was on his back.
He went up against Malik Williams, the same wrestler from Cosby who pinned him last year.
But not this year.
The cheers of the Powhatan home crowd swelled to a crescendo as the final seconds of the third period ticked down to not only cement Coward’s 7-2 win by decision over Williams, but put Powhatan’s lead out of reach at 7 points with one last match left in the lineup.
Powhatan took the forfeit at 113, making Coward’s thrilling win the last of the night. His victory put the exclamation mark on the Indians’ 34-33 team triumph over Cosby and secured a 2-0 sweep of the tri as the home unit also denied Atlee 44-33.
“We rose to the challenge today,” said Powhatan head coach Jonathan Tanaka. “I think that motivating factor of having that loss [from last year to Cosby] in our pocket sometimes is a little bit better – obviously you don’t want to take a loss, but sometimes that ends up motivating you a little bit more.
“With our guys…looking forward, this weekend at the Virginia Duals, Cosby’s the third seed in the tournament,” Tanaka said. “For us, with our guys, we were kind of pushing them, like: ‘Hey…if we can hang with a team like this, if we can beat a team like this, that shows you guys where we are.’”
For Coward, offense was the key. He said he didn’t shoot at all in his overtime match at Hanover; this time, however, Coward was constantly taking shots, pushing Williams to the edges of the inbounds plane throughout the three periods. He went down to Williams early on a takedown, but escaped for a point to go into the second period trailing 2-1. He soon took a point on a penalty to tie the match.
And then Williams chose neutral, granting the go-ahead point to Coward at 3-2.
From there, Coward swung around his opponent and took advantage on top to extend his lead by two more, sparking the crowd into a roar.
“It felt I got back into the match,” Coward said.
He overpowered Williams to prevent a point off an escape, added an insurance takedown in the third period and remained firmly in command until the final whistle blew. In his victory, he showed the crowd what Tanaka and his coaching staff have been seeing from him every day.
“When he believes in himself and he wrestles, he can do great things,” Tanaka said of Coward. “Hopefully tonight is kind of the start of the turning of the tide for him, that he starts realizing what he’s capable of, but man – especially after he took that loss against Hanover really tough, as he should – and to be able to right that, turn that ship around four days later, that’s phenomenal, man. Just happy for the kid.”
“It means a lot,” Coward said of his coaches’ belief in him. “It tells me that they can see that I’m getting better, like I’m not just like the 85-pound kid I was last year.”
Moving Coward down to 106 was part of the late-match strategy that helped Powhatan maneuver its way to the team victory over the Titans. Beginning with Mitchell Johnson subbing-in at 182 to wrestle state champion Simeone Holmes, Powhatan, which at that point began to see how the team points would shape up, shifted Hayden Fitzsimmons up to 195 and Linwood Hill up to 220.
“Kudos to Coach Rich [Fitzsimmons] – during our match days, me and Zach [Olson] are kind of focused on the present I guess, so to speak, and then Coach Rich is kind of our guy that we put in charge of our lineup construction,” Tanaka said. “We had a lot of little conversations that last 20 minutes of that dual meet, just trying to make sure we got everybody in the right spots.”
When it came to subbing-in Coward for freshman Kieran Hathaway, who started the night against Atlee at 106, Tanaka noted how the thought process behind that centered on Coward having a little bit more experience.
“That’s kind of what we went with there, just hoping that Dylan could keep it close and maybe pull one out there,” Tanaka said. “No disrespect to Kieran Hathaway. We love the kid, but sometimes, as we just told our guys back there, sometimes people have got to sacrifice for the best of the team.”
And both Fitzsimmons, who wrestles at 182, and Hill, at 195, also have experience with wrestling up to where they competed against Cosby on Wednesday. It paid off for the duo, as Fitzsimmons, after leading 5-0, strung together a takedown with a near-fall to rout Josh Powell on a 10-1 major decision at 195 and secure a much-needed bonus point, and Hill mixed in a takedown with three crucial points off of penalties levied against his opponent to defeat Anthony Gray by a 7-4 decision at 220.
“It’s a huge help that they wrestle each other,” Tanaka said. “Hayden and Linwood wrestle almost every day, so Hayden knows what 195 feels like, and Linwood works with our 220’s and…obviously he wrestled 220 the last two years, so he knows what that feels like, and a lot of that plays into it.”
Two-time top-three state placer Sean Hall (126) started things off for Powhatan against Cosby by following-up his pin of Atlee’s Calvin Lewis in 1 minute with a pin of Kyree Burch in 1:24. And Gavin Timmons (132), after running into Atlee’s two-time state champion Evan Buchanan in the preceding dual, more than bounced-back. Facing Cosby’s Eric Annet, Timmons took a 4-2 lead on a reversal late in the first period, padded his lead with two takedowns and an escape and then, after relinquishing an escape to Annet, took a quick shot that led to a takedown with 4 seconds left in the match, ensuring that Timmons added a bonus point via his 11-3 major-decision victory.
Cade Van Buskirk (138) built on the early flashes he showed in his match against Atlee by pinning Cosby’s Logan Collins in 1:48. Andrew Cheatham (145) in the following match pulled-off a reversal in the closing moments of the first period to lead Chase Smith 4-2, kept the lead on a takedown at the end of the second and escaped his opponent’s grip for an insurance point with less than 20 seconds remaining to win by a 7-5 decision.
Hans Rehme (170) was the last key to helping set up Powhatan’s winning strategy across the final few weight classes. After going ahead of his Cosby opponent 5-0 at the end of two periods, Powhatan Football’s sophomore quarterback followed-up a takedown with three consecutive near-falls to win the match by tech fall.
Powhatan was able to secure the team win even with forfeits in the 113 and 120 weight classes.
Against Atlee, the Indians went 7-0 in the upper weight classes (152 to heavyweight) with four contested victories and 17 bonus points while also getting a lower-weight pin from Sean Hall.
Adam Camp (160) racked up two escapes, three takedowns and three near-falls against Atlee’s Hayden Morris to win by a 16-3 major decision. After going up 6-0, Fitzsimmons (182) in the third period added both a takedown and a point off of a penalty to defeat his Atlee opponent on a 9-0 major decision.
Powhatan’s two heaviest wrestlers in the lineup delivered a pair of explosive victories to seal the team win over the Raiders. Micah Holt (220) worked quickly to pin Gabe Sheffield in 41 seconds. Tanner Palmore (heavyweight) battled through a scoreless first-period deadlock to take a narrow advantage on a second-period escape and then, from the top position to open the third, turned Noah Jones onto his back and pinned him with 1:24 left in the match.
Especially after Wednesday’s tri-meet sweep, Tanaka is really excited for this coming weekend, in which the Powhatan Indians will compete in the Virginia Duals at the Hampton Coliseum.
Coward said they’ve just got to wrestle like they did Wednesday – “just hard, intense – everyone doing their job.”