Final match of the night, at least a major decision needed for a win over Hendersonville – Dillon Knighton would have wanted to be nowhere else than on the mat.
Nerves and all.
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“I’m a captain of the team, so it was time to step up and show the team why,” Knighton said. “I had a dry mouth the whole time from start to finish.”
Knighton steadied both his nerves and Bearcat opponent Austin Hudson, scoring a dramatic third-period pin with 49 seconds remaining to lift Polk County to a 42-39 win over Hendersonville in a Western Highlands Conference match at Polk.
On a night full of important performances, Knighton delivered the final one. With the Wolverines trailing 39-36 at the start of the match, Knighton had to either win a decision by at least eight points or record a pin in order for Polk County to win the team match.
Knighton took an 8-3 lead at the end of the first period, nearly pinning Hudson at the buzzer. The Polk junior built the lead to 10-4 at the end of the second period, then got two points early in the third for a 12-4 margin.
Looking to retain that crucial eight-point edge, Knighton got Hudson onto his back in front of the Polk County bench in the final minute and quickly pinned him, giving the Wolverines a much-needed win.
“Everybody has been working hard, and it’s to be rewarded for it,” said Polk County head coach Phillip Miller. “We’ve got a saying that what defines you as a person is how you handle adversity. We’ve handled a lot of adversity.”
Every victory was key for Polk. Heavyweight Devin Panchyshyn won a blink-and-you-missed-it match, pinning Emiliano Martinez in 12 seconds. Triston Watkins and Evan Miller scored back-to-back pins at 113 and 120 pounds, with Trey Thompson (170), Darryl Caesar (106) and Kaden Layer (126) winning by forfeit.
“A lot of the freshmen stepped up,” Miller said. “Every win was big.”
So was the Wolverines’ last defeat of the evening. Freshman Mitchell Yoder dropped an 18-11 decision to Franklin Blackwell, but the fact it ended in a decision proved important. Blackwell nearly pinned Yoder at least twice, but Yoder fought out of the hold each time and avoided a fall, allowing Blackwell to score just three team points and setting the stage for Knighton’s win.
“Even with losing, Mitchell fought his tail off,” Miller said. “That was huge. That prevented a tie.
“I’ve got no complaints with Preston (Burnett, who lost late in the second period by pin). He fought his tail off, too.”
All of that effort paid off, the Wolverines notching a win over their conference rivals for the final time as Hendersonville moves to a new conference next season.
“I prayed before the match God would let us wrestle to our full potential,” Knighton said. “And that’s what he did.”