In theory, it was possibly the longest road trip for any Orange High sports team in the 53-year history of the school.
In practice, Orange Wrestling Coach Bobby Shriner went home.
Shriner, a native of Roselle Park, New Jersey, returned to his stomping grounds this week after a 10-hour bus trip each way. It was a fulfilling journey, on and off the wrestling mat.
After a tour of Manhattan on Wednesday, the Panthers captured the Roselle Park Invitational team championship, finishing with 224 points in the nine team competition. Passic Valley High, from Little Falls, NJ, finished 2nd with 204 points.
It was another Payton Wilson victory at 220 pounds. Wilson, who won the 220 championship at the Tiger Holiday Classic after beating South View’s Cade Smith 10-3, earned his third tournament championship this year at 220. Wilson is 25-0 on the season and remain #1 in the state at 220.
Just weeks after suffering an injury on his right knee from an ingrown hair on his right knee, junior Bailey Hawkins captured his first individual championship at 132 pounds. Hawkins, ranked 5th in the state at 132, is now 25-6 thus far.
Also claiming his first individual championship was heavyweight Daylen Alson, who learned how delicate winning tournament championships can be at the Tiger last week. Facing Carrboro’s Emanuel Oquaye in the semifinals, a weary Alston got a takedown to go ahead 9-6 with :23 remaining in the third period. Yet Oquaye had the stamina to secure a two-point reversal to force Alston to the mat, then gained a near fall in the dying seconds to win the match 10-9 and advance to the finals. Alston, ten seconds away from facing Southeast Guilford’s Evan Surgeon in the finals, finished the tournament 5th.
His fortunes in New Jersey were better. He captured the championship, improving his record to 21-6.
Five Orange grapplers finished second: Gavin Wiggins (120); Charlie Fitzpatrick (152); Josiah Ramirez (170); Branden Homsey (182) and Jamar Davis (195).
Mitchell Askew, Mitchell Lopeman, Levi Anderson, Avery Jenkins, Noah Davis and Caleb Brimmer all placed for Orange.
That ends the 2016 calendar for the Panthers. Now, Orange enters 2017 the favorites to win the Big 8 Conference Championship after beating Northwood before Christmas break. The Panthers return to Big 8 action with a tri-meet against Northern Vance and J.F. Webb at Webb on Wednesday.