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MIDWEEK DUALS

#Uncivil: Clay Rallies For Tight Victory

FLEMING ISLAND — The #UncivilWar, 2021 edition, had, as the Saturday Night Live character Stefon might have put it, everything.

Seniors bringing it on both sides of the mat. Unexpected twists. Several remonstrations with the referee by both coaches. A near-brawl. A heavyweight match that went into the ultimate tiebreaker. A wrestler who thought he was beaten, only to be told he wasn’t, and then won with a takedown in overtime. An unexpected hero.

And, it had something not seen in #UncivilWars since 2015 — in a year where the annual rivalry of northeast Florida titans was contested twice.

A Clay dual win.

After trailing for six weights against the five-time defending #Uncivil winners and hosts, the Blue Devils (18-3) broke back at, seemingly, the last possible moment to erase a double-digit lead with four weights left and 7-point lead with two to go, and take a 32-30 victory over Fleming Island (22-2) Wednesday night.

“This was awesome. This was what the sport’s about,” Clay coach Jim Reape said, after gathering himself — and his team which, predictably, celebrated joyously on its side of the mat post-dual. “Last year, they just crushed us.

“It’s a great win over a great program, nothing but good things to say about them. They compete hard. For seven or eight years there it had come down to the last match like this, and it’s great to be competitive again with them, because (the rivalry) hasn’t been like that lately.”

Momentum was precarious early, and tactical, as both teams felt the other out. After four weights, it was 9-9, with Clay’s Josh Kumpf (145) taking a 12-6 decision and Cale Hoskinson (160) winning by fall just before the end of the first period; in turn, Fleming’s David Parkes (10-2 major at 152) and Jhoel Robinson (19-4 tech in 5:52 at 170) scored the Golden Eagles’ points.

The teams then traded max-points wins at 182 and 195, with Hunter Williams (195) winning by fall after Clay’s Ethan Larsen had won by forfeit immediately prior.

Emotions then ran very high after the 220 match, where the Golden Eagles’ Grant Travis took a 4-2 decision; the tensions and near-scrum that broke out on the floor resulted in one team point taken from Clay. but the Blue Devils settled back in behind heavy Ethan Daniels, who found an escape in the ultimate tiebreaker for a 3-2 win, making it 18-17, Fleming.

But the Golden Eagles seized momentum in, if not necessarily full control of, the dual behind a quick fall from Joseph Forte (106) and a gutty sudden-victory takedown from Hunter Herrington (113) in a match where Herrington had thought he’d lost in regulation, only to be told he’d forced an escape in the last possible moment, and an extra minute to compete. Those two wins put Fleming up, 27-17, with four weights to go.

Clay cut the lead to four on Dalton Huckelberry’s first-period fall at 120, but Fleming Island pushed it back out to seven, 30-23, on Riley Holton’s 9-2 win at 126.

And things were not looking good for the Blue Devils at all through the first two periods at 132.

But senior Thomas Viens, who’d only seen his team lose to Fleming Island in prior seasons with the team, had different plans for that bad look. In a crucial stretch of the third period, in hitting a cradle that was a go-to move he’d gone away from — and upon hitting it, his team knew good things would result a few seconds before the crowd did — Viens overcame a substantial deficit with a third-period fall in 5:01 to join recent Clay alums like Dylan Martin and Jonathan Whiting as heroes on the Blue Devil side of the greater Jacksonville area’s best rivalry.

Clay’s Thomas Viens locks his cradle to give his team a chance to win the #UncivilWar2021 Wednesday night at Fleming Island. The Blue Devils would take a 32-30 dual victory (Photo by Shannon Heaton; more action photos of all contested weights can be found on the Matmen Instagram page, nflamatmen).

“I feel like we’ve been more intense this year,” Viens said. “We all fought for this, not just me. Not just one guy. The whole team, the coaches…everyone.”

But the dual was not decided yet.

That came down to 138, one of the most evenly-matched prospects of the evening between two kids likely to qualify out for states later on this month.

And it would be Clay’s Luke Boree who would stay patient and turn an inside single shot into a key double with around half a minute left, then successfully ride to a 3-1 decision and the dual victory for Clay.

“This was their Super Bowl,” PJ Cobbert said. “This isn’t who we’re trying to beat. But we will have that score put up on the wall all summer and we will be better next year.

“We told the kids that this is on you. What we wanted to do was to come out like (Fleming had) last year. I coach hard all the time and if we’d won this dual by one point, the guys would probably want to go practice tonight. But congratulations to Clay, they wrestled their butts off.”

Both teams are now off until their respective district tournaments. Clay will host the 1A-District 4 IBT on February 17, while Fleming Island will travel to county rival Oakleaf for the 3A-District 1 IBT on the 20th.

A box score from #UncivilWar2021 can be found HERE.

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