GREENSBORO —The two best wrestlers on the Mount Airy wrestling team go about their business in a very different manner.
For three years, Jacob Hogue has been the sheriff in whatever weight class he chose to compete in. He won state championships in 2015 and 2016, then came back for his senior year better than ever, mowing down 48 opponents at 126 pounds on his way to a perfect season heading into Saturday night’s NCHSAA state championships at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Fellow senior Dakoda Smith, several inches taller and 69 pounds heavier, runs his office a different way. According to head coach Cody Atkins, Smith has a flair for the dramatic.
That’s all well and good, because both of them wrote the Hollywood ending to their respective careers on Saturday night.
Hogue put his 48-0 record on the line about midway through the event, taking on Robbinsville’s Kade Millsaps in a rematch of the West Regional final. He had already defeated Millsaps 6-1 in the regional, and in his final match with the Granite Bears, the Robbinsville sophomore had no chance.
“Jake had already beaten him last Saturday, and did even better this time,” said Atkins. “I thought he was the offensive guy the whole match. Jake was trying to attack, and the other guy was just playing defense the whole match. He wrestled great, and now he’s a three-time state champion.”
It was only close for a short while. Hogue opened the match with a takedown, was reversed by Millsaps about 40 seconds later, but quickly escaped to take a 3-2 lead that stood after one period. He chose the down position to open the second period, and again showed he could escape Millsaps as he pleased, doing so to lead 4-2. He then scored another takedown, conceded an escape to Millsaps, and then took him down again with 25 seconds left in the second period to lead 8-3.
Millsaps had the option for the third period and chose to open neutral. However, he was assessed a point for passivity, and in the final 25 seconds of the match, Hogue scored yet another takedown and also notched a two-point near-fall, ending his career as a triple state champion with a 13-3 major decision.
The 195-pound championship matches were the last to be contested, so Smith had to wait until the very end of the evening to contest his championship match, which was also a rematch of the West Regional final against Cory Farmer of Murphy. In fact, Smith and Farmer were the very last wrestlers to contest a match during the 2016-17 wrestling season in North Carolina.
And true to form, Smith prevailed, although it took him three overtime periods to outlast Farmer 4-2.
“It was an amazing match,” said Atkins. “That’s just kind of Cody’s fashion. He likes to win those close matches. In the semifinals, he won in ultimate overtime just to get here, and now he wins in overtime to win the state. That’s just how he wrestles. It gives me a heart attack, but that’s his style.”
Both Smith, who ended the season at 44-2, and Farmer (16-4) displayed impressive skill in a first period in which they were locked in a neutral position for the entire two minutes.
Smith had the option to choose his position to start the second period and chose down, then scored a reversal after 45 seconds to draw first blood. However, 19 seconds later, Farmer slipped out of his grasp, and the second period ended 2-1.
Farmer, knowing that he could deadlock the match with just a single point, chose to open the third period down, and it took him just 18 seconds to get away. The wrestlers were back at neutral, and once again, neither could take the other down.
The same occurred through the one-minute overtime, as they remained at neutral the whole way. This sent the match to two 30-second overtime periods. Farmer chose down for the first one, hoping for another escape point. This time, Smith held him down the whole way, but couldn’t turn him.
However, Atkins was now confident that the match had turned in favor of his man. He was correct.
“I was pretty confident at that point,” said Atkins. “Once Cody had ridden him out for those 30 seconds in overtime, I thought he could get an escape or a reversal and win it in the next 30 seconds. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
Smith opened the third overtime in the down position and quickly escaped, taking a 3-2 lead. Farmer could still win the championship with a takedown in the last 25 seconds, but was unable to do so, and in fact was assessed a penalty point for an illegal hold with three seconds remaining.
There was a third local wrestler in a championship final, but Surry Central’s Kaleb Dunn was on the losing end of a dramatic finish, which didn’t occur without some controversy.
During the first three days of the tournament, Dunn had been as dominant as any wrestler in the event, pinning his way to the state finals. The championship match pitted him against West Caldwell’s Shykale Steptoe, the fourth seed from the West Regional with a 37-6 record as compared to Dunn’s 30-0.
The match was unexpectedly competitive, as neither wrestler was able to score from the neutral position in the first period. Dunn took a 1-0 lead when the second period began and he chose to open down, escaping immediately. However, once again neither could score from neutral. Steptoe opened the third period down, and Dunn held him for nearly the entire period, until the two went out of bounds with 14 seconds left in the match.
At this point, the West Caldwell wrestler made a daring move to try to reverse the hold, or at least escape, and pulled it off with what appeared to be about eight seconds left in the match, as the two grapplers went out of bounds once again. However, the clock kept running until time had apparently expired. When Surry Central coach Stephen Priddy protested, the referees agreed that match wasn’t over, but gave him just one second back on the clock.
Dunn immediately popped up when action resumed, and Priddy thought he’d made good on an escape and tied the match, but the referees didn’t see it that way, and Dunn’s perfect season ended in its last 10 seconds.
“It was just one of those things. They said there was less time than I thought there should have been,” said Priddy. “It was a tough way to lose. Even though the score didn’t reflect it, I thought Kaleb pretty much dominated the whole match. You’ve got to keep working, and (Steptoe) made that move, and it is what it is.
“It looked like to me that he did escape. All he had to do was get away from his hands for a second on his feet, and it was close. It was really close.”
The only other area wrestler to make it to the finals was Jude Lloyd of Elkin, who lost the 132-pound 1A final to Jordan Todd of Rosewood, 5-0.
David Pena of Surry Central, who placed third at 285 a year ago, again appeared in the third-place match this year. However, Pena suffered an injury during his match with Jaqwuez Norman of Farmville Central, and had to default the match and settle for a fourth-place finish. Caleb Price of Forbush made the consolation final at 113 pounds, but he lost to Keshon McLean of Hunter Huss and also placed fourth in the state.
East Surry’s Mitchell Edwards represented the Cardinals well in the 1A 182-pound ranks, wrestling his way to the consolation final after an early loss, and defeating Isaiah Martin of Uwharrie Charter by pin with nine seconds remaining in the second period. Joan Ramirez of Mount Airy also made the consolation final, but he fell 9-5 to Kyle Coward of Voyager Academy at 132 pounds and settled for fourth.
Two Elkin wrestlers made the 1A consolation finals. Blake Frye lost at 152 pounds to Chris Miller of Swain County, but Juan Anuario beat Mason Coble of West Montgomery 5-2.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.