JOHNSON CITY - Dobyns-Bennett's season competing in dual matches came to an end Thursday night.
But coach Buzzy Mann was proud that his Indians went down fighting.
"It's hard for me to single anybody out because I thought they wrestled a whale of a match," Mann said after D-B lost 35-24 to Greeneville in the semifinals of the Region 1-AAA duals. "Best match of the year, by far, that we've wrestled."
Greeneville went on to defeat Science Hill 51-21 to win the region title and seal an automatic spot in the state duals. The Hilltoppers, who beat Morristown West 64-18 in the semifinals, move on to meet the Region 2 runner-up for a state berth.
Down 30-12 at one point, the Tribe (11-10) mounted a rally. Austin Mann recorded a pin in the 112-pound match, and Zack Jenkins and Will Sorgeloos followed with decisions at 119 and 125 to make the team score 30-24.
But then, Caleb Myers - arguably the top wrestler on the entire Greene Devil roster - beat Adam Metzger by a technical fall at 130 to mathematically clinch a team victory for Greeneville.
"I think we had them a little scared there for a little bit," Mann said.
D-B was without two of its starters - Ben Davis (189) and Adam Mann (103), the latest Indians to miss time this season due to injuries. Phillip Lecklikner was the lone senior to compete for the Tribe, winning his match at 160 by decision over Victor Medina.
Lecklikner's other classmates, Nick Mueller and Matt Howe, are out for the season due to injuries.
"What if, yeah," Lecklikner said. "There's always those what-ifs. You've got to look past that and go with what we've got. Hopefully Ben will be back for next week and the little Mann kid will be back. Hopefully we'll be able to pick it back up in the individual tournament and bring a bunch to state."
Justin Myers, Caleb's brother, started the match with a pin victory for Greeneville in the 140-pound class. But D-B answered with Mark Erwin's decision over Tyler Aiken at 145.
"Mark Erwin had lost to that guy two or three times this year," Mann said.
"That was the turning point right there," Lecklikner said. "Once he got that win everybody just had more emotion and more confidence."
Joel Brimer's pin gave Greeneville a 12-3 advantage, setting the stage for Lecklikner's win. Then Mann tweaked his lineup. With Davis out, he forfeited the 171-pound match and wrestled James Templeton at 189 against Michael Parr, Greeneville's backup at that weight.
"We gave up a decision which is three points," Mann said. "Instead of them getting 12 points in those two matches, they got nine."
All in all, though, the Indians just didn't have enough to overcome the Greene Devils (28-1), who are one of the top teams in the state.
Mann remains hopeful for the future of his program.
"I think some of them finally started believing that they can beat some people," he said. "In wrestling that's a lot of the struggle. Sometimes you feel like the match is over and you've lost before you walk out there."
The next step is the region individual tournament. Chuckey-Doak hosts that event Feb. 9-10. The top three finishers in each weight class advance to the state tourney, but four grapplers will advance from the 125- and 215-pound weights. Those were selected in a blind draw to receive the extra spots.
"We wrestled with intensity tonight," Lecklikner said. "I was proud of everybody. Now we've got it in our heads that whatever we want is ours."