When a wrestling team ventures into a tournament against 44 other squads from five states, there’s an aura of the unknown.

Different opponents from different schools leads to a wider variety of competition levels. Which is why the end of the first day of the Tigers Holiday Wrestling Classic at Chapel Hill High School had pleasant surprises, and a few disappointements, for Orange.

Overall, the news couldn’t be much better. The Panthers will go into the final day of the event with the overall team lead with 85 points. Southeast Guilford has 80 points, while Newton Conover had 69.5.

Out of 14 wrestlers who started the competition across all weight classes, the Panthers placed eight in the quarterfinals. Southeast Guilford had seven quarterfinalists, while Newton Conover ended up with six.

The quarterfinals begin at 9AM Friday morning at Chapel Hill High School.

The most dramatic Orange win of the night came at 138 pounds, where junior Bailey Hawkins trailed West Brunswick’s Brandon Risen (23-4) 4-2 going into the final minute of the final period. Hawkins edged Risen’s shoulders to the mat for a stunning pin at 5:18, improving his record to 19-2. Hawkins faces senior Sammy Peticos of Chase High in the quarterfinals.

Earlier, Hawkins pinned Northern Pitt’s Andrew Mizell in 1:48.

At 220 pounds, Payton Wilson’s search for a third individual championship this month started with a pinfall over Tyler Onyebbilanma of Greensboro Smith in 1:43. Wilson, who received a bye into the 2nd round, is now 16-0 this season.

At 170, Josiah Ramirez bounced back after a tough loss last weekend at Eastern Alamance with two decisive wins. He needed only :41 to defeat Northwood’s Montgomery Allgood, then finished off Hough High’s Andrew Boykin 13-1.

Avery Jenkins scored two pins to earn a spot in the 145 quarterfinals. He started with a win over Croatan’s Andrew Litz in 1:05. In the 2nd round, he pinned Jacob Holt of Newton Conover in 3:16.

Sophomore Caleb Brimmer continued a strong campaign with two wins to improve to 15-4. He pinned Morehead’s Dilyn Roudesbush in 2:34, then handed Bunn’s Jalen Kelly a 12-7 defeat. It was only the 2nd loss of the year for Kelly. Brimmer faces Purnell Swett’s Ronald McNiel on Friday.

Heavyweight Daylen Alston didn’t work by the hour in his victories. He pinned Greensboro Smith’s John-Rob Brown in 2:28, then rolled into the quarterfinals with a :32 pin over Southern Alamance’s Alex Crawford. Alston will face Heritage’s Joseph Vickers to start Friday.

At 195, junior Jamar Davis pinned Northern Nash’s Jalen Spooner at 4:49. Davis, who received a bye into the second round, led 2-0 going into the final period.

Mitchell Askew was the 1st Orange wrestler to reach the quarterfinals. He earned a major decision over George Wythe (VA)’s Sebastia Lamrouex 11-1. Askew pinned Carrboro’s Gavin Leone in :30 to open the night.

The tournament featured schools from as far away as Kissimmee, Florida, where one of the wrestlers pulled among the bigger surprises of the night. Osceola High’s Blake Fuller defeated Orange’s Charlie Fitzpatrick 11-5. Fuller got two near falls late in the third period to break open a close match. The loss ended Fitzpatrick’s 13-match winning streak.

Fitzpatrick rebounded to win his first consolation match over George Wythe’s Arelon Kapuy via pinfall in 2:54.

At 120, Gavin Wiggins pinned North Pitt’s Dominic Maurizzio in only :25, but lost a rematch to Southern Alamance’s McKray Mundy 5-1. Wiggins won his first consolation match 11-1 over Providence’s Will Nguyen.

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