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Sometimes, wrestlers can simply surprise you, but in the best of ways.
So was the case Thursday night at Chopticon when Lackey Chargers head wrestling coach Stephen Gilligan watched two first-year wrestlers earn victories in their respective matches and turned what were tough matches on paper into on-the-mat wins.
First-year wrestler Dylan Baldwin earned his fourth varsity win by an 11-7 decision, after being down 5-0, in his 106-pound bout and first-year teammate Devin Rudd, who earned the starting nod after winning a wrestle-off the night before the match, earned a victory by pin at 132.
Those nine team points helped Lackey earn the eventual 45-27 victory over Chopticon.
“Nobody was just willing to go roll over on their backs,” Gilligan said. “We got a couple of wins that I wasn’t expecting; I didn’t know that we would get them. ... I take my hat off to the young kids. I asked them to step up and that’s exactly what they did tonight. They kept us within striking distance.”
That striking distance included being down 27-21 with four bouts remaining in the match.
Nate Cargill tied it at 27 after his pin over Alex Flanagan at 160 which was followed by a Chopticon forfeit at 170 that gave Lackey a 33-27 lead.
Corrice Davis then clinched the match for Lackey with his pin over Corey Warner in the 182 bout, making the score 39-27 with only one bout remaining.
On his match-clinching win, Davis added, “I wanted to go in there, get my six and get out.”
Ray Johnson closed it out for Lackey with another pin at 197.
“With those four matches, I was comfortable because I knew that the weight classes that were coming up we were stronger than them,” Gilligan said. “The heart of my line up is up top, so I thought starting at 220 was good for us. We could get a little momentum going into where [Chopticon] is a lot tougher than us down low.”
But even with the final four bouts in favor of Lackey, it was the wrestling of the team early on that was appreciated by teammates.
“They impressed me a lot,” Cargill admitted of his teammates. “We wrestled a lot harder than I have seen. They showed a lot of heart today and I am proud of my dudes. ... We wrestled hard today. We wrestled with a lot of heart and went at them as soon as the whistle blew and didn’t stop.”
With his newer wrestlers performing well combined with his experienced wrestlers earning points where expected, Gilligan is feeling good heading into the meat of the Lackey schedule.
“We are in the position to where we could go into where we have a lot of the really tough teams in the conference with a lot of mat experience,” Gilligan said. “When we go head on with the bigger teams, we’ll be better prepared for them.”
Mike Laury (220) also added a pinfall victory for the Chargers.
Chopticon head coach Dane Kramer admitted the Braves were slightly outmatched in the final four bouts of the night despite leading 27-21 going in.
However, he also mentioned that a couple of wins earlier in the night could have helped in the end result.
“We needed to get the wins before then,” he said. “We thought we would win the -pound match. We thought we would win at  and got pinned there and then the 40-pound match, our kid had a lead with five seconds left, but gave up a reversal and a takedown in overtime. Those were matches we should have won. We win those, it would be a really close match.”
Brian Fant (113), Jarrett Arnold (120) and Logan Hubbell (147) each earned victories by pins.
Chopticon finished 1-8 in the South River duals this past weekend. The one win came against McDonough and gave Kramer his 300th victory.