A year after losing one of the most successful grapplers in school history, Cedar Ridge showed its depth during its season-opening event.

At the Red Wolves Invitational at Cedar Ridge High School, senior Kaden Tatro captured his second tournament championship at 175 pounds. Tatro, who finished sixth in the state at 182 pounds at the 3A State Championships last year, had a decisive run to the championship that included two technical fall victories and a pin in the final.

Tatro, who finished 54-8 last year, defeated Rodrigo Perea of Green Level 17-1 via technical fall in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Tatro knocked off Micah Frye of Middle Creek 17-0 in the semifinals. In the championship match, Tatro pinned Alexander Laughlin of Athens Drive in 1:55.

For junior Pierce Prescod, the season started with what one may view as a revenge tour. Last year, Prescod went into the 3A Mideast Regionals at 120-pounds with an 42-9 record. After losing to eventual regional champion Omari Figuroa of Eastern Guilford, Prescod faced off against Carson Cori of South Johnston needing only one win to qualify for the state championships. Just seconds into the match, Prescod was penalized for an illegal slam. Cori claimed his back was injured, which led to Prescod being disqualified against an opponent he would have been a favorite against.

In the Red Wolf Invitational, Prescod rolled through the field like a man with a purpose. He scored pins in all three of his matches. In the championship match, Prescod pinned Bearik Bigelow of Asheboro, the #2 seed, in 4:13. Prescod also defeated Fareed Busisou of Athens Drive in 50 seconds of the semifinals. In the quarterfinals, Prescod finished Alexander Gardner of Northern Durham in 1:40.

Ryan Rakouskas, who finished third in the region at 145 pounds last year, captured the championship at 157 pounds. In the championship match, Rakouskas defeated Thomas Gingerich of Green Level 9-3. Rakouskas got the opening takedown 37 seconds into the match, then took down Gingerich twice in the second period to take control of the match. Rakouskas needed only ten seconds to pin Ethan Cohen of Panther Creek in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Rakouskas defeated Bilial Benzemour of Southeast Raleigh in 1:07.

The team championship came down to the very end. Athens Drive managed to hold off Cedar Ridge to take the team title. The Jaguars finished with 178.5 points. The Red Wolves, with six wrestlers who placed, finished with 168 points.

At 190 pounds, Cedar Ridge senior James Este-Wittinger, who qualified for the state championships in 2022, finished runner-up. Este-Wittinger pinned Gabriel Delrosario of Millbrook in 4:38. Este-Wittinger was leading 8-2 at the time of the pinfall. In the semifinals, Este-Wittinger deefeated Person’s Malakai Newman 7-3 n what could be a preview of a Central Conference Championship match. Top-seeded Zair Marjan of Athens Drive pinned Este-Wittiner to win the championship.

At 126 points, Nathan Vendura finished runner-up in his first Red Wolf Invitational. Vendura upset top-seeded Carter Goodwin of Middle Creek 8-5 in the quarterfinals. In the opener, Vendura pinned Mason Winstead of Northern Durham in 5:06. Vendrua pinned Riley Neil of Southern Alamance in 2:39 to reach the final. In a wild final, Christian Neal of Corinth-Holders outscored Vendura 16-13 to win the championship. Venura got a late takedown and had Neal’s shoulders down for back points in the waning seconds, nearly getting the pin for an improbable championship until time ran out.

At 106 pounds, Cedar Ridge’s Favio Jaramillo Espar finished in third place. Espar lost his opening match to McBride Colton of McMichael. He rebounded to win four consecutive matches in the consolation round to earn third place. Espar held off Faysal Busisou of Athens Drive 8-5 in the third place match. In the consolation semifinals, Espar scored a major decision over Simon Hairstead of Apex Friendship 15-5.

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