CLEVELAND — Sometimes, you have no choice but to play the hand you’re dealt.
In its wrestling match Wednesday with conference rival Cleveland, Smithfield-Selma found itself having to play a hand it wished it could have discarded.
The Rams, on the other hand, found themselves drawing a royal flush, snapping a two-match losing streak by handing the Spartans their first loss of the season, 74-6.
Taking advantage of a lineup that Spartans coach Kristian Stewart had to put together at the last minute, the Rams posted 10 pins, a victory by default and two major decisions. The win lifted Cleveland to 1-1 in Two Rivers competition and 5-2 overall.
Smithfield-Selma slipped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Two Rivers Conference.
On Dec. 7, the Spartans lost their regular 195-pounder for the season to a broken ankle. On Tuesday, two other regulars were unable to make the trip, while others missed their assigned weights.
As a result, Stewart had to shuffle his lineup, placing wrestlers in heavier weight classes than they were used to and finding the outcomes less than what he wanted.
“We needed everything; we needed all our ducks in a row to be competitive tonight,” Stewart said. “We needed everything to go right.
“Everything went wrong.”
The only thing that went right for the Spartans was senior Malachi Barnes’ first-period pin over sophomore Steven Barnes at 160 pound.
Steven Barnes, who was making his debut for Cleveland, got off on the right foot, with a quick takedown. But the advantage was short lived as Malachi Barnes quickly escaped, secured a takedown and registered the pin 40 seconds into the bout, tying the meet 6-6.
After that, little went right for the Spartans, including an injury default by senior 195-pounder Brandon Deleon to Rams’ freshman Trevor Bryant.
Deleon built a 3-0 lead through two periods on the strength of an escape and penalties by Bryant. But adversity struck Deleon, who injured his right knee executing a maneuver, forcing an injury timeout. He then suffered cramps, first in his left leg, then his right, forcing him to forfeit the match.
Bryant improved his record to 2-5 with the win, while Cleveland pushed its lead to 18-6.
Only one other wrestler held a lead for the Spartans, that being senior 220-pounder Chris Parker, who held a 6-1 second-period lead over senior Paul Mefford.
“I knew they (Spartans) had a few guys out,” said Rams coach Scotty Barnes. “They had a freaky injury Saturday, one or two missed weight, and that will doom you in a dual match.
“But we came out and wrestled well; that’s what we needed after a loss last week.”
The wrestler Scotty Barnes beamed over was Steven Barnes.
“He stepped out there on the mat for the first time,” Scott Barnes said, “and he took the fight right to his man.
“This was a big night for some of our freshmen; they came out and got wins that will help their confidence for this weekend’s tournament.”
“No excuses,” Stewart said of his team’s performance. “We are a much better team than this score. We’ll prove that, and it will speak for ourselves.”