For the first time since it won the 2012 3A State Championship, the Orange wrestling team is headed to the state quarterfinals.

The Panthers (29-0) will square off against Swansboro on Thursday night at 6 at Gray’s Creek High School in Hope Mills in a regional semifinal. On the opposite mat, West Brunswick will face Gray’s Creek in the other semifinal. The two winners will meet in the 3-A Eastern Regional final immediately afterwards.

Orange has won eight regional championships in three different classifications since the North Carolina High School Athletic Association started dual team playoffs in 1990.

Orange will have a mental advantage against Swansboro, having defeated the Pirates 44-19 during the Havelock Duals on January 14. It was another match where the Panthers’ depth proved too much. After six matches, Orange led 12-10 before Charlie Fitzpatrick (152), Josiah Ramirez (170), Jamar Davis (195) and Payton Wilson all scored pins to put the match out of reach. Daylan Alston added a 7-3 decision win over Swansboro’s Patrick Peterson.

However, Swansboro (37-4) will go into Thursday match after ending a dynasty. The Pirates defeated Eden Morehead 40-27 in Pittsboro on Tuesday, ending the Panthers’ run of four consecutive 3-A regional championships, winning it all in 2014 over Fred T. Foard.

Morehead ended the season 23-3.

Searching for its sixth state championship, Orange punched its ticket to the state quarterfinals after convincing wins over Corinth-Holders (43-27) in the first round and Wilson Fike (45-36) in the nightcap.

Josiah Ramirez started the night with a technical fall victory over the Pirates’ Mike Darden 19-4, the first of four consecutive wins for Orange. At 182, Braden Homesey got a 9-3 decision over Seamuis Brennan. At 195, Jamar Davis got a 12-2 major decision over Alvin Montanez. In possibly his toughest match of the year, Wilson grinded out a 3-1 win over Larry Williams to remain undefeated on the season.

Orange dominated the lighter weight classes as Mitchell Askew (106), freshman Noah Davis (113), Mitchell Lopeman (126), and Bailey Hawkins (132) all scored pins. Plus, Gavin Wiggins scored a major decision over Brian Hines 14-4.

Against the Golden Demons, Orange scored pins in six of the first seven matches. After Homsey received a forfeit victory to open the dual match, Davis pinned Jamonta Isler in 1:39. Wilson pinned Levi Nigoche in :25 at 220. Daylen Alston put the shoulders of Saulo Rodriguez on the mat in 1:46. At 106, Mitchell Askew scored his 2nd pin of the night against Blake Edwards in 2:44. Noah Davis also notched his 2nd pin when he finished off Jahmez Settles in 2:57. At 120, Gavin Wiggins defeated Taylor Gay in 1:05 to put the Panthers ahead 42-0.

Mitchell Lopeman got a 6-3 decision over Daniel Martinez.

Gray’s Creek, which opened in 2003, went 6-0 in the Cape Fear Valley Conference, earning its first regular season league championship. In the conference tournament, that lost to Union Pines last Saturday. The Bears are coached by Matthew Anglin, who is in his first season. He’s the program’s third coach in as many years.

West Brunswick in the top seed from the 4-A/3-A Mideastern Conference. The Trojans finished runner-up to Wilmington Laney in the league. It was Laney’s 20th conference championship in 27 years.

There will be a live radio broadcast of today’s meet on the website starting at 5:50.


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