In its closest match to date between the two rivals, Fort Mill edged Nation Ford 36-32 in varsity wrestling Friday night, but not without some added drama.
Fort Mill led the entire way in the dual meet, but Nation Ford kept chipping away at the lead until the 220-pound weight class.
Trailing 30-12, Nation Ford rattled off two straight wins by pin fall to make it 30-24 with wins coming from Tay Sauls at 182 pounds and Major Strait at 195 pounds, both in less than a minute of the first period, bringing the Falcon faithful into a frenzy at Nation Ford High School.
The Jackets forfeited the weight class at 220 pounds to Nation Ford’s Brady Hensley, which tied the meet at 30 with two more weight classes to go. Immediately after the match, Hensley made a non-obscene gesture at the Fort Mill bench, but caught the eye of the referee, which cost Nation Ford a point and putting them back trailing Fort Mill 30-29.
Needing to win at least one if not both of the next two matches, Fort Mill clinched the win at heavyweight as Gray Hinson pinned Jonathan Scott in the second period, giving the Jackets a 36-29 lead.
Nation Ford closed the match out at 106 pounds with Jeremy Kishbaugh beating Brody Claassen 7-2.
The win by Fort Mill knocks Nation Ford out of team playoff contention as the Falcons finished 2-4 in Region III.
“It hurts,” said Falcons’ head coach Leon Boulware. “We wrestled. We competed. I know the effort was there. We had to get this one.”
Boulware wasn’t happy with how things transpired in the match regarding Hensley.
“I apologize for the actions of one of my wrestlers,” he said. “That is not Nation Ford wrestling. Great job to Fort Mill wrestling team, coaches and fans.”
Fort Mill head coach Chris Brock said he knew his team would have its hands full with Nation Ford, especially heading into the heavier weight classes.
“I knew we needed one win out of it,” Brock said. “We had some good performances.”
The match started with the 113-pound weight class, which saw Fort Mill’s John Brotemarkle beat Christian Trimble 5-4 in overtime to give the Jackets an early 3-0 lead.
Following that, Fort Mill went up 6-0 on an 8-4 win by Jarrod Kimball over Ben Cripe at 120 pounds, before AJ Leitten won by pin fall at 126 in the first period over TJ Giarratana.
Trailing 12-0, Nation Ford got its first win of the dual at 132 pounds as Dalen Byerley won by pin in the first period over Nick Gray. Fort Mill bounced back at 138 pounds to win as Jake Strong pinned Buck Barfield in the second period, giving the Jackets an 18-6 lead.
Nation Ford rattled off two straight wins at 145 and 152 pounds with Robert Land winning over Steven Hamilton 4-3 and Jakob Gravely winning 5-3 over Evan Stankovits making it 18-12.
Fort Mill’s Chase Griffey won at 160 pounds by pin fall over John Abraham and Jack Debbout won by pin fall at 170 over Joey Martinek, giving the Jackets the 30-12 lead.
Fort Mill will finish out its Region III schedule trying to secure a second place finish this week with a dual against York, while Nation Ford prepares for individual competition at the Region III tournament this weekend at Rock Hill High.