Orange Wrestling

Alumni Update: Homsey joins Ferrum wrestling coaching staff

Braden Homsey: After four years as a competitor for the Ferrum College wrestling team in Virginia, Homsey has now joined the staff of the Ferrum Panthers. Homesey qualified twice for the NCAA Division III Tournament at Ferrum, in 2020 and 2023. In February, Homsey won the 197-pound championship of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. At the Southeast Regional, Homsey finished 2nd, beating Cameron Butka of Wilkes College in the semifinals via a 7-5 decision. Overall in his senior season, Homsey placed in four tournaments. During his career at Ferrum, Homsey wrestled for five different teams.

Trenton Gill: The Chicago Bears fell to 0-4 on the season when they lost to the Denver Broncos 31-28 at Solider Field on Sunday. The Bears led 28-14 going into the fourth quarter. Gill only had two punts on the day. He averaged 45 yards per punt. His longest punt was 56 yards. One of them was downed inside the 20-yard line. The Bears will travel to Washington next Sunday.

Payton Wilson: Wilson was the leading tackler once again for the N.C. State football team in its 13-10 loss to Louisville at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Wilson finished with ten tackles. He had two tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Also, Wilson carried the ball on a fake punt, rushing for three yards to convert a 4th-down. The Wolfpack are 3-2, 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They will host Marshall in Raleigh on Saturday.

Darius Satterfield: The Elizabeth City State Vikings suffered a disappointing Homecoming loss to Johnson C. Smith 21-20 at Roebuck Stadium in Elizabeth City State on Saturday. The Vikings led 20-7 going into the fourth quarter before the Bulls scored 14 unanswered points. Satterfield averaged 39.2 yards on four punts. He had a 57-yard punt, his longest of the day. Two of the punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. Elizabeth City State 1-4, 0-3 in the CIAA. The Vikings will host Virginia Union next Saturday.

Braxton Mergenthal: The Division III Hampden-Sydney football team lost a heartbreaker to Bridgewater College 39-38 at Everett Stadium in Hampden Sydney, VA on Saturday. The Eagles scored the game-winning touchdown with  23 seconds remaining. Mergenthal had three tackles for the Tigers. Hampden-Sydney is 2-2 overall, 0-1 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. They will host Ferrum next Saturday.

Bryse Wilson: Wilson concluded his first regular season with the Milwaukee Brewers, who clinched the National League Central division championship. On Friday, Wilson recorded his fifth hold of the season as the Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Friday at American Family Field. He threw one shutout inning with one hit allowed and one strikeout. For the regular season, Wilson made 76.2 innings. He finished with three saves, five holds, a 2.58 ERA and 61 strikeouts with 22 walks. The Brewers will start play in the National League Wildcard series, a best-of-three set, against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. Game one will be at American Family Field.

Ivy Garner: The Liberty women’s soccer team suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday. New Mexico State defeated Liberty 2-0 at Osborne Stadium in Lynchburg, VA on Saturday. It was also the Flames first Conference USA loss ever. Garner started and played 63 minutes at midfield. She fired two shots. Liberty is now 11-1 overall, 2-1 in Conference USA. They will face Florida International in Miami on Saturday.

Emerson Talley: The Division II Lenoir-Rhyne women’s soccer team remains undefeated in the South Atlantic Conference. On Saturday, the Bears defeated Wingate 2-0 at WU Soccer Complex. Talley played the full 90 minutes at midfield. The Bears are now 7-0-3 overall, 5-0 in the SAC. On Wednesday, they will travel to Emory & Henry.

Will Berger: The Wofford men’s cross country team competed in the Adidas Invitational at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC on Saturday. In a seven-team meet, the Terriers finished fourth. Berger finished 55th among 77 runners with a time of 30:38.4. Wofford will return to action on October 14 with a meet at South Carolina-Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C.


Alumni Update: Homsey becomes Ferrum College wrestling’s all-time wins leader

Braden Homsey: Homsey ended his senior season at Division III Ferrum College as the all-time wins leader in school history. Competing at the Division III National Championships at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, VA, Homsey lost his opening match in the 197-pound championship to Dylan Wellbaum of Adrian College. Homsey advanced in the consolation bracket by forfeit over Gage Linahon of Central College. Josh Harkless of Rochester Institute of Technology pinned Homsey in an elimination match. Last month, Homsey defeated Gable Crebs of Lycoming 10-2 to become the Panthers’ all-time wins leader with 110 victories.

Joey McMullin: McMullin ended a two-year stint with the Sandhills Community College men’s basketball team when the Flyers reached the National Junior Community College Division III National Championship game against Brookdale Community College on March 18. It was the third time the Flyers reached the national title game. Brookdale defeated Sandhills 90-82 in Herkimer, NY. McMullin scored six points in 12 minutes in his final game for the Flyers. He shot 3-of-8 from the field and also had two rebounds. On March 4, Sandhills won the Mid-Atlantic District championship when they defeated Butler County Community College 114-91. McMullin came off the bench to score 22 points in 21 minutes. He shot 10-of-14 from the field and grabbed six rebounds. In the opening round of the Division III National Tournament, Sandhills defeated Mohawk Valley Community College 92-85. McMullin had eight points and three rebounds. In the semifinals, Sandhills defeated Northampton Community College 88-78. McMullin had eleven points, one of four Flyers in double-figures. This season, McMullin was the second-leading scorer on the team with 14 points per game. He also averaged 3.8 rebounds per game. Sandhills ends the year 30-4 and the Region X Champions of the NJCAA.

Ashley Cowan: Cowan, who graduated from Orange in 2021, is in her freshman year as a gymnast at LSU. She made her college debut on February 10 against #5 Auburn. She registered an 9.775 on the uneven bars. Auburn was the dual meet 197.750 to 197.500. On March 10, Cowan registered a career-best 9.990 on the uneven bars as the Tigers defeated West Virginia 198.025-196.450 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rogue, LA. On March 3, during the Podium Challenge, Cowan scored a 9.850 against George Washington. The Tigers, ranked #6 in the country, finished 3rd at the Southeastern Conference championships in Duluth, GA over the weekend.

Bryse Wilson: As the regular season creeps closer for Major League Baseball, Wilson has appeared in six Spring Training games for the Milwaukee Brewers. On February 27, Wilson threw a scoreless relief inning against Kansas City. He surrendered one hit. Against Cleveland on March 3, Wilson started and threw two innings. He struck out four and allowed one hit. On March 13 against Cincinnati, Wilson threw three-and-two-thirds innings and allowed one hit. He had two walks and two strikeouts. In six games, Wilson threw 13.2 innings and had a 6.59 ERA with strikeouts and three walks. Milwaukee starts the season against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.

Joey Berini: Berini is starting regularly for the #8 East Carolina baseball team this season. On Tuesday, UNC Wilmington defeated the Pirates 9-3 at Clark-LeClaire Stadium in Greenville. Berini finished 0-for-2. Over the weekend, the Pirates swept a three-game series from George Mason. Berini went 1-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt as ECU defeated George Mason 11-3 on Friday. Berini went 1-for-2 in the Pirates’ 8-1 win over the Colonials on Saturday. Berini hit his first home run of the season on Sunday as the Pirates rolled to an 8-0 win in eight innings on Sunday. This season, Berini is hitting .318 over 23 games, 22 of which he has started. He has two home runs with nine RBIs. After he spent much of 2022 at second base, Berini is starting at shortstop, the position he played at Orange.

Dante DeFranco: DeFracno has played 19 games this season for the Charlotte 49ers, who are in their final season in Conference USA. He is hitting .269 with eight RBIs. On March 18, DeFranco went 5-for-5 as the 49ers defeated Louisiana Tech 14-6 at JC Love Field in Ruston, LA. DeFranco had three RBIs and a double. On Sunday, DeFranco went 1-for-4 with two RBIs in the 49ers 8-1 win over Dallas Baptist at Hayes Stadium in Charlotte. The 49ers are 11-13, 3-3 in CUSA.

Phillip Berger: The all-time winningest pitcher in Cedar Ridge history, Berger has started his junior season at Division III William Peace University in Raleigh. Berger is 5-1 with a 3.41 ERA. On Sunday, Berger earned the win as the Pacers defeated Mary Baldwin 15-3 at Moxie Stadium in Staunton, VA. Berger threw five innings and allowed three runs off six hits. He struck out four with three walks. On March 18, Berger took the win as the Pacers defeated #17 Methodist 9-7 at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary. Berger surrendered only one run off four hits with three strikeouts. William Peace is 11-11, 4-2 in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Cooper Porter: The Pensacola State Pirates of the National Junior College Athletic Association are 26-7 overall. Porter has appeared in eleven games for the Pirate and is hitting .154 with one RBI.

Will Walker: In 21 games this season for the Pitt Community College baseball team, Walker is hitting .344 with two home runs with 19 RBIs. On Saturday, Walker hit a home run and finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs as the Bulldogs defeated Bryant & Stratton College 14-3 at Minges-Overton Complex in Greenville. On March 22, Walker went 2-for-5 as Pitt edged Louisburg College 11-10 in eleven innings. Walker drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning to bring in the game-tying run.

Davis Horton: The 2021 Big 8 Conference Player of the Year, Horton continues to catch regularly for the Rockingham Community College baseball team. In 26 games, Horton is hitting .293 with 20 RBIs. He has a team-high 92 at-bats. On Sunday, in Rockingham’s 4-3 win over Surry Community College, Horton went 2-for-4 with an RBI double. He started at first base. In the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Surry, Horton went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI as the Eagles won 9-8.


Alumni Update: Homsey wins ODAC Championship; Crabtree announces end of basketball career

Photo courtesy of Ferrum College 

(Editor’s note: We’ll catch up with softball and lacrosse players later this week. This column was already nearly 800 words without softball) 

Braden Homsey: On the verge of setting the Ferrum College record for most career wins, Homsey won the 197-pound championship of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference at Winchester, VA last weekend. Homsey scored a technical fall over Jaden Murk of Southern Virginia University. In the championship match, Homsey defeated Ryan John Sedovy of Washington & Lee University 3-1. Ferrum University will host the Division III National Championships on March 10-11 at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, VA.

Conner Crabtree: On his Facebook page, Crabtree announced that he would end his college basketball career after undergoing surgery on his right pinky finger. It’ the fifth time he has undergone surgery. Crabtree had already missed five games for the Richmond Spiders this season because of an ankle injury. Crabtree has played for the Richmond Spiders since January 4. He played in seven games this season and scored five points. After a stint at Hargrave Military Academy, Crabtree started his college career with Tulane under former Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. He averaged 7.1 points per game while appearing in 30 games with 15 starts. He transferred to Richmond in 2020. In his sophomore year, he appeared in four games, averaging 4.8 points per game. He fractured his right foot in late December 2020 and missed the rest of the season. In his junior year, he averaged 2.0 points and 1.0 rebounds in 35 games. Crabtree was the leader for an Orange team that won the 2016 Eastern Guilford Holiday Invitational Tournament, the last time the Panthers won any basketball tournament. He was also the leading scorer for Orange in his senior year when they won the Big 8 Regular Season Championship and reached the state quarterfinals of the 3A State Tournament.

Joey McMullin: The Sandhills Community College men’s basketball team finished regular season play with a 110-88 win over Gateway Community College in Clifton Forge, VA on Saturday afternoon. McMullin scored 19 points. Sandhills won the Region X Regular Season Championship with a 6-0 league record. The Flyers are 26-3 overall. McMullin went 6-of-13 from the field and added nine rebounds and two assists. Sandhills edged Blue Lights College 100-99 in Pinehurst on February 11. McMullin was honored during Sophomore Day. In a dramatic win, the Flyers reeled off an 11-0 run to win its 12th straight game. McMullin scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds. He shot 7-of-11 from the field.

Joey Berini: Now a junior, Berini started twice for the #11 East Carolina baseball team in its season-opening weekend series over George Washington. In ECU’s 9-5 win over the Colonials in the opening game of a doubleheader on Saturday, Berini went 0-for-2 with a walk. He started at second base. On Sunday, Berini went 2-for-4 with an RBI single as the Pirates swamped the Colonials 20-5.

Will Walker: The Pitt Community College baseball team has opened the season with seven consecutive wins. Pitt opened the year with a 9-0 win over Camp Community College. Walker started at first base and went 0-for-4. Walker went 0-for-2 as the Bulldogs whipped Bryant & Stratton Colley 15-1 in the latter game of a doubleheader at Trant Field in Virginia Beach, VA. Pitt defeated Camp Community College 19-11 on February 15. Walker entered the game as a reserve and went 1-for-3 with a double. Last weekend, the Bulldogs swept Richard Bland Community College in a three-game series. Walker played in a reserve role in the opening 5-2 win. In the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, Walker had his biggest game of the season. He hit a three-run homer in the 6th inning to put the Bulldogs ahead 7-2. Walker finished the day 2-for-3 with four RBIs. On Sunday, Pitt completed the weekend sweep with a 7-2 victory. Walker went 1-for-3 with an RBI single that opened the scoring in the 2nd inning.

Davis Horton: Horton, the 2021 Big 8 Conference Player of the Year as a catcher for Orange, is already starting as a designated hitter during his freshman season for Rockingham Community College. In his first game with the Eagles, Horton went 1-for-3 with a double as Rockingham defeated Patrick & Henry 5-2 on February 4. Horton went 0-for-4 on February 5, which Patrick & Henry won 6-1 in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game, Horton went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, but the Patriots defeated the Eagles 15-5. On February 11 & 12, Guilford Technical Community College swept a two-game series from Rockingham. The Titans won the opening game 10-1. Horton went 0-for-2 with a walk. Horton had an RBI single and went 1-for-3 in the second game of the series, which Guilford won 11-3. On February 15, Rockingham split a doubleheader against Pro 5 Academy. The Eagles won the opening game 7-5 in nine innings. Horton went 0-for-5 with an RBI. Pro 5 Academy took the second game 10-3. Horton, who started as catcher, went 0-for-3 with a walk.




Orange’s Isley wins 195-pound Mideast Regional Wrestling Championship; Tatro finishes 2nd for Cedar Ridge

Acoya Isley’s nickname on the Orange wrestling team is “Alabama.”

It’s a natural nickname for somebody born around the time Nick Saban started his revival of the Alabama football program and molded it into the most successful dynasty in modern college sports. Crimson Tide fans have a noticeable population around Orange County, even if the main attraction is based simply on winning rather than geography.

Except Isley isn’t an Alabama fan. In fact, he has no idea how he got the nickname “Alabama.”

“It’s an old football nickname I got my freshman year,” Isley said. “It’s kinda just stuck ever since. They just say it because I’m crazy. I don’t know how I got it. It’s just ‘Bama Isley.’ You learn not to question it. I don’t even watch Alabama play football.”

As of last week, Isley has a new moniker: a regional wrestling champion.

At Cedar Ridge High School last Saturday, Isley defeated top-seeded Karin Sain of Eastern Guilford via injury stoppage at 2:53 to win the 195-pound championship. Isley, who is 32-2 on the season, became the first Orange wrestler to win a regional championship since Levi Anderson captured the 145-pound title in 2019.

Isley, who finished 3rd in the 2022 regionals, faced top-seeded Karin Sein of Eastern Guilford in the championship match. It took Isley 41 seconds to gain the match’s only takedown with a single-leg where Sein conceded his back. With 12 seconds remaining in the first period, Sein escaped to reduce Isley’s lead to 2-1. Sein attempted to take Isley’s legs out from under him, but couldn’t gain a change in position as the buzzer sounded on the opening period.

Isley started the second period on top and grabbed a waist lock takedown. With Sein facing the mat, Isley sank in a half-nelson and attempted to score back points when the official stopped the match to check on an injury to Sein. Following several minutes, Sein couldn’t continue as he favored his right shoulder. Isley was declared the winner for the 54th time in his Orange career.

Orange junior Jared Hutchins reached the finals of the 132-pound tournament. Hutchins scored a 10-5 decision over Eastern Guilford’s Malachi Hamilton in the semifinals. Hutchins, who is 25-5, pinned Emil Shaji of Carrboro in 41 seconds during the opening round. Douglas Byrd’s Cristian Rothrock won a thrilling final match against Hutchins 10-8. After Hutchins escaped to even the match 8-8, Rothrock earned a double-leg takedown with five seconds remaining to take the match.

At 126 pounds, Orange’s Braden Crawford finished 2nd. Crawford opened the tournament with a pin of Carrboro’s Jackson Brooks. For the second time in as many weeks, Crawford faced Union Pines Joseph Lloyd. Previously, the two had met in the 3A Eastern Regional championship match in the 3A State Dual Team Tournament at Orange High, where Crawford won 6-5. This time, Crawford scored a late reversal to win 9-8. Crawford opened the match with four points in the first period, including a takedown just 22 seconds in. Crawford would advance to the championship match over Ethan Croom via forfeit. Southern Durham’s Demarion Garner claimed the regional tile when Crawford was injured in the championship match.

Cedar Ridge junior Kaden Tatro was the fourth finalist from a Hillsborough school on the day. Tatro, the second-seed at 182-pounds, reached the finals after he defeated Solomon Howell of Eastern Guilford 9-0 in the semifinals. Union Pines’ Nicholas Mascolino, the #1 seed, improved to 46-3 on the season when he pinned Tatro in 1:57 in the championship match.

Tatro, 52-5 on the year, opened the tournament with consecutive pinfall wins on the opening day, February 10. He defeated Scotland County’s Wyatt Locklear in 59 seconds. In the quarterfinals, Tatro finished off Chevelle Cade of Westover in 3:16.

Orange finished third in the team standings with 139.5 points. Cedar Ridge came in fourth at 115.5 points. Eastern Guilford captured the regional team championship with 206 points. Union Pines, the 3A Eastern Regional Dual Team Champions, came in second at 175.5 points.

Cedar Ridge and Orange each had four wrestlers qualify for the 3A State Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum. Red Wolves senior Fernando Martinez, the defending 113-pound Mideast Regional Champion, had a frustrating second day en route to a fourth-place finish. In the semifinals, Keaton Crawford of Union Pines defeated Martinez 10-7. Martinez led 5-4 at the end of a spirited first period where he got two back points after he notched a reversal. It was 6-6 at the end of the second period. Crawford scored a reversal to go ahead 8-6 with 1:12 remaining, then scored a near fall for two more points.

Martinez ensured a trip to the state championships after he dominated Sunday Oo of Northwood 16-1 in the consolation semifinals. In the 3rd place match, Martinez faced old rival Christian Lemaire of Person for the fourth time this year. Lemaire, who lost to Martinez last month in the Central Carolina Conference championship match at Orange High, defeated Martinez 4-2 in a match where all points were scored in the third period. After Martinez got the opening takedown, Lemaire escaped and got a double-leg with 44 seconds remaining.

Red Wolf sophomore Ryan Rakouskas advanced to the state championships for the first time in his career after he finished third at 145-pounds. Rakouskas pinned Jose Ortiz of Westover in the consolation semifinals in 4:54. He took the 3rd place match when Eastern Guilford’s Nasir Grant forfeited. Rakouskas, who is 36-18, opened the tournament with a pin over Joseph Vraback of Union Pines in 3:32. In the consolation round, Rakouskas pinned Daniel Edmonds of Fayetteville 71st in 1:48. He pinned John Mewborn of Harnett Central in 48 seconds.

At 195 pounds, Cedar Ridge’s James Este-Wittinger, seeded eighth, came in fourth at 195-pounds. Este-Wittinger defeated Rodriguez via pinfall in 4:44 in the consolation semifinals. Este-Wittinger opened with a pinfall win over Alex Parrilla of Triton in 3:53. In the consolation round, Este-Wittinger edged Western Alamance’s Cameron Pettigrew 3-2, then went to overtime to defeat Adaris McBride of West Johnston 10-8 to secure the match with Rodriguez. This is Este-Wittinger’s first trip to the 3A State Championships.

Also going to Greensboro for the first time will be Cedar Ridge senior Jalen Williams, who finished 4th at 126-pounds. Williams claimed a forfeit win over Ethan Croom of West Johnston in the consolation semifinals. Williams, who was a #10 seed, won four matches in the consolation round. He pinned Carrboro’s Jackson Brooks in 2:52 and also pinned Rylee Motten of 71st in 4:52.

Orange senior Ben Musser finished third at 138-pounds and earned his first trip to the state championships. Musser dominated Western Harnett’s Ben Rich, the #2 seed, in the consolation semifinals 11-1. Musser opened with a pin of Andrew Gross of 71st in 48 seconds. Musser scored wins over conference rivals Justin Hartsell of Cedar Ridge and Rodney Lyons of Person. He defeated William Sullivan of Douglas Byrd via forfeit in the 3rd place match.

There were also disappointments. The most controversial came at 120-pounds where Cedar Ridge sophomore Pierce Prescod, who was 2nd on the team with 44 wins this season, was disqualified in his consolation semifinal match against South Johnston’s Carson Cori. Just seconds into the first period, Prescod was penalized a point when he slammed Cori, who started favoring his back. Cori claimed an injury and said he couldn’t continue, which disqualified Prescod and led to Cori taking a spot in the state championships. A furious Prescod bolted the gym after he shook hands with Cori and darted into the school lobby after his season, which included two individual tournament championships, suddenly ended shy of his goal of getting to Greensboro.




Orange Panther of the Week: Acoya Isley

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is senior wrestler Acoya Isley. This season, Isley is 34-2 with 23 pins, the highest pin percentage for the Panthers. In December, Isley won the 195-pound championship at the Eastern Alamance Eagle Invitational in Mebane. He followed that up with another win at the Quentin Crosby Invitational at Greensboro Dudley High School. In 2021, Isley won the 195-pound championship at the Jim King/Orange Invitational. He went undefeated against Central Carolina Conference opponents this year as Orange won the CCC regular season championship. In December, Isley finished 2nd at 195-pounds in the Tiger Holiday Classic, the highest finish of any Orange wrestler. Isley also played football the past two years. For reasons he has yet to figure out, Isley was given the name “Alabama’ by his teammates. On Wednesday night in his final two matches inside Panther Gymnasium, Isley scored pins in the State Dual Team wrestling playoffs. He pinned Swansboro’s Marcos Jimenez in 50 seconds. Against Union Pines, Isley pinned Dantrell Williams in 4:46. Isley will look to return to the state championships later this month. Next week, he will compete at the Mideast Regionals at Cedar Ridge High School.

Union Pines outlasts Orange wrestling 37-30 to win 3A Eastern Regional Championship

The hope around the Orange wrestling camp was that things would be different this year.

Last year in Cameron, Union Pines defeated Orange 49-24 to win the Eastern Regional championship in the 3A State Dual Team playoffs. It was no surprise that the two teams would meet again with the same stakes on the line a year later. The Panthers had ten starters back from last year’s team. Union Pines had nine.

But the result was the same. The Vikings depth proved to be too much for the Panthers.

Behind pins from Colton Collins, Nick Mascolino and Brock Sullivan, Union Pines won the 3A Eastern Regional Championship for the second straight year, outlasting Orange 37-30 at Panthers Gymnasium on Wednesday night. For the second straight year, the Vikings (27-1) will face Fred T. Foard for the 3A State Dual Team Championship at the Novant Health Fieldhouse in Greensboro on Saturday.

Orange (23-2) was denied its eleventh regional championship.

The Panthers may have been fazed by its opening match earlier in the night. Orange squeezed out a 38-30 win over Swansboro in the regional semifinals in a back-and-forth affair that come down to the last match. Orange’s Dillon Heffernan, in his final matches inside Panther Gymnasium, pinned Klint Rhude to ensure an Orange victory. Moments earlier, with the Panthers trailing 30-26 and its season on the line, Orange’s Talan Pearly pinned R.J. Caines in 55 seconds to vault the Panthers into the lead. It was the eighth and final lead change of the night.

While Orange was struggling in a fighting to the finish against the Pirates, Union Pines completed its business against First Flight quickly. The Vikings cruised 42-31 over the Nighthawks and waited about 40 minutes on the adjacent mat for Orange’s match to finish before the Eastern Regional final.

“They’re a great team,” Orange coach Spenser Poteat said as his team rolled up the mats afterwards.”I think they were just deeper than we were. I’ve seen them a couple of times this year and they’ve been stronger than we’ve been in tournaments. Hopefully, we can rebound from this and get ready for individuals.”

There were four individual rematches from last year’s regional Final. To start at 170 pounds, Brock Sullivan pinned Orange’s Andre Hill in 5:27. Last year, Sullivan prevailed via pinfall at 1:46. Sullivan was ahead 11-3 at the end of two periods before the pin.

At 195, Orange senior Acoya Isley pinned Dantrell Williams in 4:46 to cut the Union Pines lead to 12-6. Isley struggled to gain an opening in the match and got a late escape in the second period to even the score 2-2. The head official took about one minute between periods to clarify the score, which gave Isley a rest as he appeared to be winded late in the second period. Isley rode his strength to earn his 32nd win of the year in his final match at Orange High. Last year, Isley pinned Williams in 1:23.

At 220, Union Pines Colton Collins pinned Orange’s Elijah Acosta in 1:26. Collins was the aggressor from the start and kept Acosta backpedaling. In 2022, Collins defeated Acosta in 2:53.

The Vikings’ Keaton Crawford, at 113, got more bonus points when he scored a major decision over Adrian Sierra 12-2. Last year, Crawford pinned Sierra.

Before Isley’s victory, Nick Mascolino of Union Pines pinned Orange’s Jayden Medley in 1:35 to send the Vikings to a 12-0 lead.

At heavyweight, Orange’s Hugo Vazquez went the distance in an 8-2 win over Sincere Bonner. Vazquez led early after a takedown, but the Vikings’ fans loudly applauded Bonner after the loss since he didn’t give up any bonus points.

Union Pines broadened its lead in the lightweight classes. At 106, Aidan Enright defeated Logan Scarantino 8-2. Paired with Crawford’s decision over Sierra, the Vikings led 25-9.

At 120, Jayden Crawford of Union Pines held off Quadir Medley in 5-2. Medley nearly had a takedown in the opening period but the officials ruled he was out of the circle. After a scoreless first period, Crawford escaped and got a takedown with 52 seconds remaining in the 2nd.

In possibly the most thrilling individual match of the evening, Orange’s Braeden Crawford held on to beat Joe Lloyd 6-5. Lloyd clung to 5-4 lead when Crawford escaped and reversed with :12 remaining in the third period to get the two points, then held on for dear life to prevent Lloyd from escaping and earned the win.

Orange’s Jared Hutchins drew the Panthers closer when he pinned J.T. Erle in 1:39. It was Hutchins 26th win of the season.

Finnius McCafferty of Union Pines regained the momentum at 138 when he pinned Ben Musser in 2:38, increasing the Vikings’ lead to 34-18.

At 145, Orange’s Dillon Heffernan pinned Joe Vraback in 3:16. With two matches remaining, Houston Leeah defeated Orange’s Sam Crawford to 6-4, which ensured the Vikings’ 2nd straight regional title. Leeah trailed 2-0 after Crawford scored the opening takedown just 12 second in. Leeah scored a reversal late in the 2nd period to even things at 4-4, then gained a reversal to open the third period and scored two back points to ride out the win.

Orange’s final dual match win of the season over Swansboro to start the night was a memorable one. There were six lead changes in the first seven matches.

As was the case in opening round wins over Southern Nash and C.B. Aycock, Orange had Sam Crawford and Heffernan compete a weight class higher because of a slew of injuries at 160 pounds. The Pirates’ Theo Yager scored a major decision in a 9-0 win over Crawford.

Andre Hill needed only 53 seconds to pin James Smith at 170. Swansboro responded with Jason McEwen beating Medley in 1:50 to take the lead back 10-6. Isley, who won all four of his dual matches in the team playoffs, pinned Marcos Jimenez in 50 seconds.

At 220, Acosta led Brayden Cline 1-0 going into the third period. Acosta held on until the very end when Cline scored an escape with three seconds remaining to claim a stunning 2-1 win, sending the Pirates back into the lead 13-12.

At heavyweight, Vazquez won the only overtime match of the night when he gained the back of Hyuga Doreus of Swansboro with 3 seconds left, winning 5-3. That put Orange ahead 15-13.

Paul Vaught of Swansboro defeated Scarantino 7-2 at 106 pounds. Sierra pinned Seamus Sullivan in 1:26 to put Orange back ahead 21-16.

At 120, Ayden Goodman pinned Medley in 2:50. Swansboro’s Tyer Cowell defeated Braeden Crawford 12-3, sending Swansboro to a 26-21 lead with four matches left.

The emotional peak of the night was at 126 when Hutchins faced Aiden Russel. Early on, Russel got back points after a reversal to take a 7-1 lead. Russel led 9-2 when Hutchins started his comeback with a quick reversal in the second period. Russel was penalized a point for an illegal move in the third, Hutchins got an escape to even the match, then scored the pin to send the building into a frenzy. Orange was penalized a team point for excessive celebration, which kept the match tied 29-29.

Mason Cooper defeated Musser 10-0. With Swansboro leading 30-26, Pearly quickly pinned Caines in 55 seconds, followed by Heffernan’s victory at 152 over Rhode.



Orange wrestling’s Adrian Sierra & Jared Hutchins discuss reaching state quarterfinals

The Orange wrestling squad has reached the state quarterfinals of the 3A Dual Team Playoffs. On Saturday afternoon, the Panthers defeated Southern Nash 62-16 in the opening round at Panther Gymnasium. In the second round, Orange came back from an early deficit to defeat C.B. Aycock 40-24. Orange sophomore Adrian Sierra may have had the biggest clutch win of the day against C.B. Aycock. Facing Carvin McMahon in the 113-pound match, Sierra was on the verge of getting pinned before he scored a dramatic sweep. Sierra wound up on top of McMahon and scored the pin at 1:58. It evened the dual match at 9-9 and the Panthers didn’t trail the Golden Falcons again. Earlier in the day, Sierra defeated Trevon Baker of Southern Nash 6-2. At 132 pounds, Orange’s Jared Hutchins had a dominant day. Hutchins pinned Jeremy Johnson of Aycock in 1:11. Earlier, Hutchins defeated Jaden Edwards of Southern Nash via technical fall 16-0. Orange will host the regional semifinal matches tonight. The Panthers will face Swansboro. Meanwhile on the opposite match, Union Pines, the #1 seed in the East, will face First Flight. Orange will go for its 11th regional championship.

Medley, Hutchins, Sierra lift Orange wrestling past S. Nash, Aycock, into 3A State Quarterfinals

Photo by Jennifer Freeland

For a fleeting moment, it appeared that the Orange wrestling team’s chances of reaching the state quarterfinals were in grave jeopardy.

With C.B. Aycock leading the Panthers 9-3 in a 2nd round dual match, the Golden Falcons’ Carvin McMahon was ahead of Orange’s Aidan Sierra 4-0. With less than 20 seconds remaining in the first period, McMahon looked to have Sierra’s shoulders on the mat.

That’s when Sierra scored a reversal out of nowhere along the outer edge of the circle to send the Orange fans inside Panther gymnasium into a frenzy. Just before the clock expired, Sierra got the pin at 1:58, his second pin of the day and his 16h of the season.

It squared the dual match at 9-9, but Sierra’s sudden reversal all but ensured the Panthers would return to the state quarterfinals of the 3A State Dual Team Wrestling Tournament for the second straight year.

Sierra’s victory started a string of four straight Panther wins, three of which were pins. Orange would go on to win the dual match 40-24 against C.B. Aycock on Saturday afternoon in front of a enthusiastic crowd at Orange High Gymnasium.

The Panthers will host the State Quarterfinals and the 3A Eastern Regional Championship match on Wednesday night in Hillsborough. Orange will open with Swansboro. On the other mat with be the top seed, Union Pines, who will face First Flight.

The Eastern Regional Championship match will immediately follow the semifinals.

Orange’s Elijah Acosta, a senior with a 30-5 record this season, opened the dual match against Aycock against Dallas Bailey at 220 pounds. It appeared that Acosta scored a pin in the first period, but one of the two referees called time because Bailey suffered a wrist injury. After Orange trainer Emily Gaddy taped Bailey’s wrist, the match continued with Acosta holding on to win 7-5, despite being penalized two points for stalling. Acosta got a late takedown in the waning seconds to secure the win.

Aycock took the lead behind a pin from Jason Best, who defeated Orange heavyweight Hugo Vazquez in 3:46. At 106 pounds, Aycock’s Jaiden Moses decisioned Logan Scarantino 11-6 to put the Falcons ahead 9-3.

Following Sierra’s win, Orange’s Quadir Medley immediately grabbed a 5-0 lead against Kiare Sewell at 120 pounds. Medley nearly scored the pin late in the first period as Sewell used up almost all of his energy keeping his left shoulder off the mat. Medley immediately attacked a gassed Sewell to start the second period and earned the pin at 2:14 to put Orange’s lead at 15-9.

Orange’s Braeden Crawford scored a 4-2 decision over Jaden Bevell at 126 pounds. It took only 26 seconds for Crawford to get the opening takedown. Bevell could only muster escape points and required work on his left arm from Gaddy in the second period.

At 132 pounds, Orange’s Jared Hutchins needed only 1:11 to dispose of Jeremy Johnson. It improved Hutchins’ record to 24-4 with 16 pins. and increased Orange’s lead to 21-9.

The Falcons responded with consecutive victories. Russell Davis defeated Ben Musser 11-7 at 138 pounds. Axl Perry, a wrestling name if there ever was one, pinned Orange’s Colton Jones at 4:45. Due to injuries with competitors at 160 pounds, Orange coach Spenser Poteat opted to have Dillon Heffernan and Sam Crawford each wrestle a weight class higher than usual.

With Orange’s lead down to 21-18, Heffernan took the mat at 152 pounds (he usually competes at 145) and controlled the match against Samad Wooten. The two had several lengthy whizzer tie-ups that Heffernan got the upper-hand in. With Wooten leading 2-0 at the end of the first period, Heffernan started the second with a quick escape to take a 3-2 advantage. To open the third, Heffernan flattened out Wotten and got his back for the reversal. Leading 5-2, Heffernan maintained the dominant position to win despite giving up a few pounds.

At 160 pounds, Crawford defeated Chance Sauls 8-7 in a tight match. Crawford got an escape point just as the second period ended for the margin of victory. At 170 pounds, Orange’s Andre Hill defeated Dawson Sauls 13-4 via major decision to ensure an Orange win.

Orange senior Acoya Isley quickly pinned Jaylen Coley in 17 seconds at 195 pounds. Isley is 32-2 with 21 pins this season.

Orange opened the day with a 62-16 win over Southern Nash. Isley opened the day with a forfeit win. Acosta pinned the Firebirds’ John Tolleson in 2:55 following a takedown late in the second period.

Vazquez defeated Leo Robiero via pinfall in 3:01. Southern Nash’s Jose Salazar earned a major decision to put the Firebirds on the board. Sierra responded with a 6-2 decision over Nash’s Trevon Baker. Medley pinned Colton Brisbee at 3:03 to increase Orange’s lead to 27-4.

Crawford pinned Chris Navigate in 1:35 at 126 pounds. Hutchins earned his fifth technical fall of the season, beating Jaden Edwards 16-0. Musser pinned Jason Edawards at 4:47 in the 145 pound match.

C.B. Aycock defeated Carrboro 77-6 in the opening round.

Orange’s state quarterfinal match against Swansboro will start Wednesday afternoon at 5:30, as will Union Pines’ match against First Flight.

Orange wrestling hosts Southern Nash to open State Dual Playoffs Saturday; Carrboro, C.B. Aycock also in quadrant

Last year, the Orange wrestling team came one win shy of reaching the NCHSAA State Dual Team Championship match for the eleventh time.

This year, the Panthers are more experienced, if banged up. They will start their mission to return to Greensboro’s Novant Field House this weekend.

The Panthers will face Southern Nash in the opening round of the 32-team 3A State Dual Team Playoffs on Saturday. Orange will host the first and second rounds of the tournament according to the bracket released by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association on Thursday morning.

Competing on the opposite mat from Orange will be C.B. Aycock, the #7 seed from the Quad County Conference, against #10 seed Carrboro from the Northern Lakes Conference. The winner of the first round matches will meet immediately afterwards to determine who reaches the 3rd round next week.

Orange was undefeated as a team going into its final regular season dual match against Currituck County in the Havelock Duals on January 14. Currituck came away with a controversial victory after a Knight wrestler claimed that an Orange wrestler bit him, an allegation that Orange coach Spenser Poteat vehemently denied and immediately protested to no avail. The Orange wrestler was leading when the match was stopped. At the time, Orange led the dual match 33-25. Currituck ended up getting six team points after they won the match via disqualification, plus Orange had three points subtracted due to “flagrant misconduct.” Currituck won the dual match 34-32. If it wasn’t for that ruling, Orange  likely would have had the #1 seed in the East Region.

Instead, the Panthers, 19-1 overall and 6-0 in the Central Carolina Conference, got a #2 seed in the East. Union Pines received the top seed. Currituck County didn’t make the postseason as First Fight got the only 3A bid from the Northeastern Coastal Conference (one of many 3A/2A conferences).

Last weekend in the Central Carolina Tournament, Orange competed without six starters, leading to a fourth place finish. The Panthers are expected to have 195-pounder Acoya Isley back in the lineup against Westover. This season, Isley is 30-2 with 19 pins. He has individual championships at the Quentin Crosby Invitational at Dudley High School in Greensboro and the Eastern Alamance Invitational in December. Isley finished 2nd at the Tiger Holiday Classic in Chapel Hill, the highest of any Orange wrestler.

Dillon Heffernan, at 145 pounds, will also return to the lineup this weekend. Heffernan, a senior, also won individual championships at Eastern Alamance and the Quentin Crosby Invitational. He is 29-4 with 15 pins.

Even without six staters, Orange had four grapplers win their individual weight classes last week in the CCC Championships: Elijah Acosta (220), Sam Crawford (152), Jared Hutchins (132) and Braden Crawford (126).

Southern Nash,, from the Big East Conference, will face Orange at 11AM on Saturday.

C.B. Aycock won the Quad County Championship with a 15-3 record. They went undefeated in conference action.

Carrboro was the top 3A team out of the Northern Lakes Conference, another split 3A/2A conference. South Granville, a 2A team, won the Northern Lakes Conference championship.

The Panthers have won five dual team state championships and ten regional titles. Their last trip to the State Championship match came in 2018, when they lost to Piedmont 33-31. It was the second straight year that Piedmont and the Panthers faced off for the State Championship. In the previous year, Orange led 29-17 with four matches remaining, but Piedmont won the last three matches to prevail 29-27. That was the final dual match for legendary Orange coach Bobby Shriner.

The regional semifinals and finals will be held on Wednesday at a location to be determined. The 3A State Championship match will take place at Novant Health Fieldhouse in Greensboro next Saturday.


Orange’s Elijah Acosta discusses winning the Central Carolina Conference 220-pound championship

Elijah Acosta has preserved through a senior season where he batted illness and injury to win a conference championship. Last Saturday in the 220-pound championship mach of the Central Carolina Conference tournament, Acosta wrestled Northwood’s Jake Dunning for the sixth time in two years. Acosta’s grip proved to be a strong one as he defeated Dunning 3-0 to take the title, his first individual championship this year. Acosta got an escape point in the second period. Late in the frame, Acosta made a rush at Dunning and scored a takedown with three seconds remaining. Dunning couldn’t get an escape point in the third period. Last year, Acosta qualified for the 3A State Championships and finished 3rd in the Mideast Regionals. This Saturday, Acosta and the rest of the Panthers will start action in the 3A State Dual Tournament. The 32-team field for the tournament will be released Thursday. Orange was the Central Carolina Conference regular season champion and will be the #1 seed in the 3A State Dual Tournament from the CCC.