Bennett overcomes injury to lead way to state tourney
Jeff Linville firstname.lastname@example.org
GREENSBORO — The 1A wrestlers join in the fun today at the Greensboro Coliseum as the state wrestling tournament continues.
Unlike the 2A side that has 16-man brackets, the 1A tournament has eight wrestlers per weight class.
The 1A quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be held today, with the consolation matches and finals on Saturday.
Seven local 1A wrestlers will compete in the event: five from Mount Airy and two from East Surry.
Other area wrestlers will come from the Northwest Conference’s Bishop McGuinness, Walkertown and North Stokes and from the Mountain Valley Conference’s Alleghany, East Wilkes, Elkin and Starmount.
The Granite Bears will be represented by senior Brian Bennett, juniors Triston Mabry, Landon Mumford and Shay Wilson and freshman Jacob Hogue.
From the Cardinals come Northwest wrestler of the year Eddie Nunez and Caleb Lowe.
For Bennett, just qualifying for the state tournament was a huge accomplishment.
A defensive tackle on the football team, Bennett made his presence felt in the middle of the pile. He had a season-best five tackles in a comeback win over rival North Surry.
A couple of weeks later, he would injure his knee against West Stokes.
“I tore the ACL,” he said of the ligament in his right knee.
Most people thought that was the end of his high school career, both for football and wrestling.
Rather than have surgery right away, Bennett spoke to his doctor about postponing the procedure until the spring. He worked on strengthening the leg and knee, while using a heavy brace and lots of athletic tape to provide stability.
“I can’t tear my ACL again,” he rationalized.
“Sometimes it hurts when it gets twisted,” he admitted, but the knee usually doesn’t bother him for everyday walking.
When the Bears made the playoffs and extended the season, Bennett had a chance to make his return, playing against East Surry in the final game of the season.
Because he wasn’t able to condition like he needed to, Bennett said he was above weight for wrestling season.
Back at the start of the school year, the football team measured the 5-foot-8 Bennett at 312 pounds.
Even as he slimmed down through the course of the season, the senior was still above the 285 limit this winter. He missed the first week and a half of the season as he slimmed down.
In his first tournament of the year, Bennett finished second.
At the regional, he finished fourth and has a season record of 22-11. And his team won 27 matches and finished third in team points at the regional.
This is a far cry from his freshman year when the Bears went 0-27.
“It really is amazing,” said Bennett. “We had five starting wrestlers as a freshman.”
He said he and teammate Jackson Blizzard were the only ones who were serious about wrestling. Other guys would come out for a while and decide it wasn’t for them.
When coaches Steve Braune and Michael Bodnar took over the team in his sophomore year, Bennett said a lot of new faces began to show up.
The freshman class brought a lot of eager young talent like Mabry, Mumford and Wilson, and fellow sophomore Austin Branch transferred to Mount Airy after wrestling at North Surry as a freshman, Bennett recalled.
This year, Braune and Bodnar brought Cody Atkins on as assistant coach, and the guys love working with him, the senior said.
While he is the biggest guy on the team, Bennett said he likes working out with his slimmer teammates because they are quick and make him anticipate their actions.
This week, Bennett said he and his teammates have been rolling around on the mat some, but they aren’t going too hard in practice for fear of getting hurt.
As for the tournament, he said, “I will definitely go in trying to win.”
He knows he is a big underdog against Chatham Central’s Casey Canterbury (29-4), but he would love to get an upset and lock up a spot in the top four.
If not, he is prepared to win a match or two in the consolation bracket Saturday morning.
Having never wrestled in such a big auditorium, the senior said he understands that facing a big crowd can be one of the biggest challenges, so he plans to stay focused on the mat and his opponent.
As for the other local wrestlers, here are the matchups for Friday.
At 106, Jacob Hogue (42-4), Mount Airy, vs Tate Plyler (27-8), Albemarle.
On the same side of the bracket, E-1 Cody Shields (44-7), South Stanly, vs W-4 Jack McCormick (35-13), Starmount.
On the other side of the bracket, E-2 Nick Daggett (45-5), Chatham Central, W-3 Jake Blevins (26-14), Alleghany.
At 113, Eddie Nunez (30-4), East Surry, vs E-4 Jovani Garcia (16-6), Trask-Heide.
On the other side of the bracket, E-1 David Guevara (39-4), Tarboro, W-4 Josh Parker (32-13), East Wilkes.
At 145, W-2 Shay Wilson (31-5), Mount Airy, E-3 Dalton Robinson (30-16), Chatham Central.
Same side of the bracket, E-1 Antonio Hill Jr. (39-4), East Montgomery, W-4 Logan Nelson (27-11), Walkertown.
Other half of the bracket, E-2 Jorge Valadez (31-10), Pamlico County, W-3 Derrick Woodie (40-5), East Wilkes.
At 152, W-2 Triston Mabry (44-5), Mount Airy, E-3 Trevor Thompson (25-8), Rosewood.
Other side of the bracket, E-2 Reynaldo Martinez-Reyes (21-10), East Montgomery, W-3 Caleb Lowe (27-7), East Surry.
W-1 Justin Todd (21-3), Alleghany, E-4 Ryder Bishop (22-12), Louisburg.
At 170, E-2 Matthew Chilton (31-6), East Carteret, W-3 Landon Mumford (42-5), Mount Airy.
Other side, E-1 Josh Drew (50-2), Rosewood, W-4 Thomas Bartley (21-11), Elkin.
At heavyweight, E-1 Casey Canterbury (29-4), Chatham Central, W-4 Jerry Bennett (22-11), Mount Airy.
W-1 Joseph Shumate (16-2), East Wilkes, E-4 Matthew Peedin (22-7), Princeton.
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