Though anyone around the program is too modest to say it, it isn’t the winning that makes Orange Wrestling such a power tradition. It’s the collecting.
There will soon be another trophy in the case outside Jim King Gymnasium after Wednesday night.
The Panthers defeated Chapel Hill 64-7 to win the Big 8 Championship. Orange finished the regular season 24-2, 6-0 in the Big 8. Over the past three seasons, Chapel Hill has been the main challenger to end the Panthers’ dominance. In retrospect, this year it was Northwood, who was one match away from the Big 8 throne. Only no one knew it at the time.
On December 16th, Northwood’s Michael Queen pinned Josiah Ramirez at 160 to vault the Chargers ahead 36-34. Only the 170-pound remained, with Panthers sophomore Jamar Davis facing Northwood’s Luke Orbich.
Not much pressure on Davis, a sophomore. Just a string of conference championships and a number one seed in the state dual tournament was all.
“I was nervous,” said Davis. “But Coach (Bobby) Shriner has taught me a lot and the partners I’ve worked out with have helped me. I’ve gotten better. All I had to do was go out there and wrestle.”
That’s what Davis did, comfortably taking a 19-4 major decision and Orange won 38-36.
Compared to that December night, Wednesday was anticlimactic. Chapel Hill did jump out to a 4-0 lead when Cam Bergey scored a 10-2 major decision. Then Orange’s Juan Torres improved to 30-12 on the season by pinning Brad Kenyon in 5:01, the first of eight Panther pins. It was Torres’ eighth fall of the year.
“Juan has been a little banged up as of late,” said Shriner, a former wrestler at UNC. “We haven’t practiced since Friday (because of snow) and when you go that long without working out, it’s hard. But Juan hung in there and he made a nice move on that double leg.”
Shannon Thompson followed with a 7-2 victory over Joe Cannon at 195, Orange’s only regular decision win of the match. Probably the biggest win of the night came at 220 when Orange sophomore Payton Wilson faced Chapel Hill’s George McBurney, who was gunning for his 100th career victory.
Not only did Wilson win, he earned an 8-0 major decision to up his record to 33-6 (McBurney got his 100th win on Thursday night over Northwood’s Wesley Roberson).
Chapel Hill’s only other victory on the evening was at heavyweight when Hudson Price edged sophomore Daylon Alston 2-1, which included a controversial penalty point against Alston for stalling that tied the match in the 2nd period.
Then Orange scored six pins in the next seven matches to put the championship on ice. It started at 106 when Mitchell Askew pinned David Cureton in 3:26. At 113, freshman Gavin Wiggins finished Zin Maung in 1:24. Then Bailey Hawkins pinned Wesley Kelley in 5:11. It was Hawkins 15th pin of the season and put Orange ahead 31-7.
Jamison Askew gained a 15-3 major decision at 126. At 132, Hakeem Jones pinned Jack Davenport in 2:22, which officially earned Orange the championship.
Gonzo Garcia (138), Charlie Fitzpatrick (145, his 18th pin of the year), and Josiah Ramirez (152, also his 18th pin) also scored falls for the Panthers.
Orange’s Joe Scott recorded a technical fall 18-3 to improve to 35-4, the most wins on the team.
The state dual team tournament field will be announced on Monday. It’s likely that Orange will be in the same quadrant as Eden Morehead, the team that eliminated the Panthers last season in the 2nd round.