There was solace for Orange wrestling in Eden on Saturday, and not a moment too soon.
Seven days after coming two points short of winning the 3-A state dual championship in Monroe, the Panthers resoundingly won the 3-A Mideast Individual Tournament at Morehead Head School. Orange finished with 220.5 points, while Union Pines finished 2nd with 174.5. Cedar Ridge finished 11th with 55 points.
Overall, Orange had four wrestlers win regional championships and will send 11 grapplers to the 3-A state championship meet next weekend in Greensboro.
Perhaps most interesting (or most concerning, depending on your perspective) was the four wrestlers who captured regional titles were all underclassmen. Two of them will compete in their first state championships next weekend.
Junior Payton Wilson, currently ranked #1 in the state at 220 by Retroranking.com who finished runner-up in the state last season, continued his dominant form by scoring a 16-1 technical fall over Morehead’s Holden Bailey in the championship match. Wilson, who received scholarship offers from Clemson, Notre Dame, Auburn and Florida State last week, pinned both of his opponents in previous matches on Saturday to improve to 42-0 on the season.
It’s Wilson’s 2nd regional championship. He defeated Morehead’s Cameron Sanders 8-3 in 2016.
The most dramatic championship match on the afternoon came at 120, where sophomore Gavin Wiggins earned his first regional championship, holding off Dallis Simmons of Terry Sanford 5-4. Wiggins earned his spot in the final by beating Josh Yeshulas of Union Pines 9-7. Wiggins is now 44-9 this season. It will be his first state championship appearance.
Also earning his first regional championship was junior Josiah Ramirez. He defeated Terry Sanford’s Ferris Allen 7-1 for the championship. In the semifinals, he decisioned Morehead’s Kyler Whicker 10-5, his 50th win of the season.
Sophomore Levi Anderson won his first regional championship at 138, beating Morehead’s Logan Howell 15-7. Anderson had a thrilling semifinal match, scoring a takedown to defeat Northern Guilford senior Hunter Elliott 6-4 in overtime. Anderson’s record is 37-10.
At 106, Orange’s Mitchell Askew is headed to the state championship after finishing runner-up at the regionals. Askew reached the finals by beating Western Alamance’s Garrett Johsnon 10-8. Northern Guilford’s Heath Gonyer defeated Askew for the championship 9-5. Askew will enter Friday’s opening round at 42-16.
Junior Bailey Hawkins finished 2nd at 132 after pinning Chapel Hill’s Wesley Kelley at 5:59 in the semifinals to improve to 34-7. Jacob Toms of Morehead defeated Hawkins in the final 10-2. It will be Hawkins’ 2nd apperance in the state tournament after finishing 2nd at 120 in the 2016 Regionals.
At heavyweight, Daylen Alston advanced to the finals with a pin of Eastern Guilford’s Tyray Vanscoy in 2:55. George Blackstock of Morehead, who defeated Alston in the 2016 Dual Team Playoffs last year in a bout that determined the entire match, knocked off Alston 12-5. It will be Alston’s first state championship appearance.
Sophomore Avery Jenkins finished 4th at 145 to punch a ticket to Greensboro. Jenkins advanced to the consolation finals by pinning Kyle Webb of Morehead in 2:28.
Senior Charlie Fitzpatrick earned fourth place at 152 after pinning Douglas Byrd’s Warren McLeod in 1:45.
Two Hillsborough wrestlers advanced to Greensboro at 182. Orange’s Braden Homsey faced Cedar Ridge’s Demarcus Smith in the semifinals, a match that Homsey won 13-3. Northwood’s Hunter Queen pinned Homsey in 1:56 for the regional championship.
Smith finished fourth at 182. Smith ensured a spot in the states by defeating Southern Durham’s Ryan Jones 4-3.
The Red Wolves’ Colin Davis captured a spot in the state tournament by finishing third at 160. He decisioned Morehead’s Charles White 7-3 in the consolation semifinals. Davis is now 34-11.
At 195, Orange’s Jamar Davis finished 3rd by pinning Gray Creek’s Dylan Porter for the 2nd time in a week. Davis also pinned Porter during last week’s 3-A Eastern Regional Dual Team final at Gray’s Creek. Davis scored four pins in the regional tournament to improve to 46-10.