Henry Clay has had the strongest wrestling program in Lexington for more than 30 years but, in all that time, the Blue Devils had never won a region championship.
Henry Clay took team honors in the 7th Region Tournament at Tates Creek on Saturday, a mild surprise because perennial power Woodford County and Lafayette were considered the favorites.
"It's fantastic," Devils Coach Andy Critchfield said. "We knew we had a chance. Our conditioning and health came together; we were peaking at the right time.
"The kids had the vision at the beginning of the year, and they kept believing 100 percent this was possible."
Henry Clay was led by brothers Joe and Mike Whalen, and Andrew Ogg.
Joe Whalen, a senior, won at 145 pounds, and Mike Whalen, a freshman, prevailed at 103. Ogg was tops at 215.
"It's amazing to finally win a region title," Joe said. "This is for all the past teams at Henry Clay, and for Coach Headley. He wanted it more than anybody, and he deserves this more than anybody."
Garrett Headley has been a Devils assistant for almost 30 years and was former head coach Norm Powell's longtime right-hand man.
Critchfield said Henry Clay's depth was the key to Saturday's championship.
Besides winners in the Whalens and Ogg, the Devils had runner-up Brenden Tuggle (152); five wrestlers who finished in the top four to qualify for state; and three others who placed fifth to help pile up points.
"The guys you didn't see in the finals, who were able to get pins, move through the bracket and get wins, that's what won the region," Critchfield said.
Also qualifying for next week's state tournament in Frankfort for Henry Clay were Hussein Ayoub (125), Joe Mims (135), Cameron Goig (140), Ryan Duzyk (171) and John Garrett (189).
Joe Whalen said he wasn't surprised by the Devils' taking the title, not even after they were beaten by Woodford County and Lafayette in duals a couple of weeks ago.
"Every loss this team takes makes the next week's practice that much harder," he said. "Winning the region is a testament that hard work pays off."
Lexington had four other individual champs — Camden Hanley (112), Will Bryant (119) and Jimmy Lacy (125) of Lafayette; and Tucker Lyles (171) of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Woodford County, a 13-time state champ, has long dominated the region. Dunbar is the only other Lexington team to have topped the Jackets in the region. The Bulldogs won the title in 2007.