ROBBINSVILLE — Mount Airy and East Surry will send seven wrestlers to the state 1A championship this week.
The Granite Bears and Cardinals competed in the 1A West Regional here on Saturday and Sunday.
The top four finishers in each weight class qualified for the state tournament to be held Thursday to Saturday in the Greensboro Coliseum.
East Surry’s Eddie Nunez took first place in the 113 weight class, and teammate Caleb Lowe placed third in the 152 weight class.
The Bears are sending five wrestlers to Greensboro after three finished in second place, one in third and one in fourth.
Jacob Hogue (106), Shay Wilson (145) and Triston Mabry (152) finished in second, Landon Mumford (170) was third and Brian Bennett fourth at heavyweight.
The West region is certainly considered the toughest region for 1A this year. Mitchell, Robbinsville and Mount Airy were top three in team scores over the weekend and are regarded by many as the top three 1A teams in the state.
East Surry and Bishop McGuinness also have received some votes for the top five in the coaches’ poll on RetroRankings.
East coach Darrin Haywood said, “I thought the kids overall wrestled well. I think the West Region is the toughest region. A few kids came up just short of making it, but overall I’m pleased.”
For Nunez, this is his third trip to the state tournament, but the first as a regional champion, said Haywood.
The junior is 30-4 on the season, and only one of those four losses has come against 1A competition, the coach added.
After wrestling 106 in the past, Nunez started the season a little heavy, wrestling 120 for several matches before getting down to 113. Three of his losses came in the first two weeks of the season before he got his weight down.
Since Dec. 10 when he moved to 113, Nunez is 22-1 with his only loss (a 10-6 decision) in the dual-team playoffs to Robbinsville’s Irvin Portugal, who won the region’s 106-pound title.
Portugal beat Mount Airy’s Hogue 6-0 in the final after getting a tech fall earlier in the brackets by a whopping 26-11 score.
Also in the 106 class, Alleghany’s Jake Blevins was third and Starmount’s Jack McCormick was fourth.
Nunez’ teammate Anthony Delaney came up one win shy of making the state field, losing to Blevins in the consolation semifinals after three straight wins.
In the finals, a couple of times Jacob tried to take Portugal down and got countered, and that put him behind 4-0, said Bear co-coach Steve Braune.
Still, it was an impressive performance at the end of a weekend of nice performances for the freshman, Braune said. He has been so good so young that he still doesn’t realize what he has accomplished. He is the first Bear in the three years to reach the state as a ninth-grader.
The last was Jackson Blizzard, who came up just short of qualifying at 132 pounds. Bishop McGuinness’ Michael Tanahey knocked him out of the brackets.
Jackson was one of four Bears who came close to joining their teammates at the state level, Braune noted.
Blizzard was 3-1 before losing a decision to Tanahey in the consolation semis.
In the 113 class behind Nunez, Josh Parker, East Wilkes, was fourth.
“I am really excited for Eddie,” said Haywood. “He has a good chance to take home a title.”
At 120, Elkin’s Said Javier was third. At 132, Bishop McGuinness’ Michael Tanahey was third.
At 138, Bishop’s Nicholas Trego was third, and Walkertown’s Zachary Nelson was fourth.
At 145, East Wilkes’ Derrick Woodie (36-4 coming in) was the top seed, but in the semifinals, Mount Airy’s Wilson beat him 8-2.
In the finals, Wilson came up one point shy of Mitchell’s Dalton Beaver (39-6) by 4-3.
Walkertown’s Logan Nelson knocked East Surry’s Jimmy Speer out of the running with a narrow 2-0 win. Nelson finished fourth after losing to Woodie in the consolation finals.
At 152, area wrestlers took the top three spots: Alleghany’s Justin Todd, Mount Airy’s Mabry and East’s Lowe.
Todd pinned his first three opponents to reach the finals, while Mabry and Lowe battled in the semifinals.
Caleb might have been just a couple of points shy of being regional champion, said Haywood.
Caleb only has seven losses on the season, and three of them have come to Triston, who seems to have had his number so far.
If Caleb had gotten by Mabry, then who knows what he might have done in the finals, he added.
At 160, the Bears’ Cameron Pack earned two pins to reach the semifinals against top seed Frank LaDew, Bishop.
After a 12-6 loss to LaDew, Pack still had a chance in the consolation bracket.
Cameron was up 5-4 near the end of the third period on Walkertown’s Trequan Malone, according to Braune.
Then with just a few seconds left, Malone got a two-point takedown for a 6-5 win to advance to the consolation final. Malone lost 6-4 in that final, but still advances to the state.
At 170, Mumford pinned his first two opponents before losing a 12-2 decision to Nathain Craig, Robbinsville, who finished second.
Landon seemed pretty wound tight at the start of Saturday, said Braune. He was so concerned about making the top four that he was putting a lot of pressure on himself.
After the loss, he went against Dalton Oliver, Starmount, and won 5-0.
Once the junior earned that spot in the third-place match, Braune said he could see a big weight lifted from the wrestler’s shoulders. He went out for the final match far more relaxed.
Elkin’s Thomas Bartley had lost to eventual champion Daniel Bomar, Mitchell, and had advanced to the consolation final.
Bartley got a takedown to go up 2-0, but Landon never looked worried, said Braune. He turned things around and wrestled the best he’s looked all season. “He was absolutely awesome,” said the coach.
Mumford beat Bartley 6-4, a performance Braune wants to see carry over to the state matches.
At 195, Felipe Chavez, wrestling above his usual 182, won two consolation matches and was a round away from qualifying for state.
Felipe was changing position by rolling across his own back, said Braune. It is a dangerous move because a wrestler can counter and stop him on his back, but on this occasion, Felipe just kept rolling, he said.
The referee signaled a pin, and none of Bears’ coaches could believe it, he said. Felipe never stopped, the coach said, likening the move to a car making a rolling stop through a stop sign and never coming to a halt.
Mount Airy freshman Cody Smith had one of the biggest highlights of the day in the 220 class.
In the first round, the 10th seed upset a seventh seed. Then against #2 seed Chase Gammons (24-8), North Stokes, Smith took an 11-4 decision.
Against #3 seed Brandon Lee, Robbinsville, Cody got the boy on his back and had what looked to be a pin, but the referee never called it, said Braune.
Smith was then pinned himself and lost a tight 5-4 decision in the consolation bracket to miss his chance at state.
At heavyweight, Mount Airy’s Bennett fell in the semifinals to Avery’s Blake Johnson 2-1.
He won in the consolation semifinals before losing in the third-place match.
The 1A state tournament is smaller than the others. The weight classes are eight-man brackets instead of 16. So instead of starting on Thursday, the 1A teams start on Friday.
Team Top 10
1 Mitchell 195.0
2 Robbinsville 157.0
3 Mt Airy 119.0
4 Rosman 115.5
5 Bishop McGuinness 109.5
6 Avery 106.0
7 Alleghany 95.0
8 Swain County 83.0
9 East Surry 80.0
10 East Wilkes 68.0
11 Walkertown 59.0
12 Starmount 55.0
15 Elkin 31.0
19 North Stokes 18.0