Going into Christmas, the race for the Central Carolina Conference wrestling championship has come down to Orange, Northwood and Eastern Alamance.

Orange remained undefeated in CCC action by beating Cedar Ridge 54-15 during a tri-meet at Red Wolves Arena last Wednesday. The Panthers, coming off winning the Jim King/Orange Invitational the previous weekend, also defeated Providence Grove 72-3 last Wednesday to improve to 7-2 overall, 4-0 in the CCC.

Despite losing to Orange last Wednesday, Cedar Ridge defeated Jordan-Matthews 72-4 and edged Providence Grove 37-31 during the tri-meet. The Red Wolves are 9-7 overall after splitting two dual matches during another tri-meet at Wakefield High in Raleigh on Thursday night.

Orange, Northwood and Eastern Alamance are tied for first place in the Central Carolina Conference with undefeated league records. Northwood is 3-0 with victories over Person, Cedar Ridge and Walter Williams. Eastern Alamance has defeated Williams and Western Alamance.

Orange will travel to Northwood on January 4 in a dual match that could determine the CCC championship.

Against the Red Wolves, Orange’s three individual champions in the JKO each captured wins. Acoya Isley pinned James Este Wittinger in 1:14 at 195 pounds. At 220 pounds, Orange’s Elijah Acosta earned a decision over Cedar Ridge’s Joe O’Melia 10-4. Acosta, in his first season as a starter, currently has a 12-1 record with seven pins. At heavyweight, the Panthers’ Hugo Vazquez defeated Louis Tedder 5-1.

Isley and Acosta are among eight new starters for Orange this season. Another newcomer, Kale Womble, defeated Jaylen Williams at 113 pounds 6-2. Braden Crawford, at 120 pounds, decisioned Pierce Prescod 5-0. At 132 pounds, Jared Hutchins, one of Orange’s few returnees from last year, pinned Tommy Heckler in 1:13.

Avery Clark (145), Samuel Crawford (152), Andre Hill (160) and senior Brendon Worsham (182) all claimed pinfall wins for Orange. At 170 pounds, Cedar Ridge’s Kaden Tatro edged Orange senior Nate Hecht 3-2.

Cedar Ridge’s junior co-Captain, Fernando Martinez, pinned Orange’s Dillon Heffernan in 3:05. Later in the night, Martinez would get a forfeit victory over Providence Grove for his 70th career win midway through his junior year. Red Wolves freshman Lee Oguntoyinbo pinned Orange’s Miles Adams in 5:56.

The following night, Orange earned three more dual match wins in the Lexington Quad at Lexington High Schoo. The Panthers defeated Alexander Central 66-13, Lexington 76-6 and R.J. Reynolds 78-3. Worsham scored two more pins to improve his season record to 11-3 with eight pins.

Last season may have been one of the first times that Orange didn’t have a competitor at 106 pounds. This season, Adrain Sierra has filled that void, and he earned two pins for Orange in Lexington. Heffernan had three pins at 120 pounds, while Braden Crawford scored three pins at 126. Womble and Vazquez each added two wins to their season total. Vazquez is 9-1 with six pins.

On Friday, Orange will return to the Tiger Holiday Classic, a two-day event that brings together teams from across the southeast. Traditionally, it’s one of the major tournament in the southeast that didn’t take place last December due to the pandemic.

Also on Thursday, Cedar Ridge participated in the Wakefield tri-meet. The Red Wolves defeated Sanderson 60-9, but lost to Wakefield 51-27.

Martinez improved his season record to 17-2 with a pin of Wakefield’s Lincoln Froh in 2:53. Against the Spartans, Martinez pinned George Sessions.

Cedar Ridge’s Joe O’Melia earned two wins at 195 pounds. Against Wakefield, O’Melia pinned Frankie Nahilia in 3:18. In the victory over Sanderson, O’Melia pinned Thomas Kenner.

At 170 pounds, Tatro pinned Ethan Kring of Sanderson. Against Wakefield, Tatro earned a 6-0 decision over John Page.

Cedar Ridge will go to Knightdale next weekend for the two-day WRAL Invitational at Knightdale High School. The event will also include a women’s tournament, which will feature Cedar Ridge’s Zoey Moreno, which earned two wins during the Red Wolves Invitational last month.

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