KING — It may have been named after a bird, but it was a feast fit for a Bear.
Mount Airy’s run at a 1A state wrestling title ended last year in a state quarterfinal loss to eventual state champ Robbinsville, but the Granite Bears still have plenty of talent on their team and expect another strong season this winter.
“We’re missing a few kids because of injuries and some other kids because they’re still playing football, but so far, we’re making up for the people who are missing,” said Mount Airy head coach Cody Atkins. “I’m really happy for them.”
Don’t tell West Stokes and Starmount that the Bears were less than full strength. They couldn’t deal with the version that showed at the Turkey Duals on Saturday at West Stokes. Mount Airy beat the host school 44-27, and held off the Rams 42-30. The results made the Bears the team champions of what became a tri-meet, and senior Luis Osorno earned individual MVP honors.
The meet was originally intended to be a quad, with North Forsyth as the fourth school. However, the Vikings backed out of the tournament on Friday, and there was no way for the host Wildcats to get another team in time. Fortunately, the three teams that did show up provided plenty of quality wrestling.
“Starmount and West Stokes are both good teams this season,” said Atkins. “This was the most kids Starmount has had in several years, and they have 11 freshmen. In a couple of years, they will be very good.”
Against the host school, a member of the Western Piedmont 2A Athletic Conference, the Bears were able to build a comfortable league and survive despite having to forfeit at 138 and 145, two weight classes where Mount Airy’s starters are currently injured.
West Stokes led 3-0 when Noah Hall scored an 8-6 minor decision over the Bears’ Chris Butera at 152 pounds, but Austin Tumbarello responded with a 4-0 major decision over Phillip Lowman at 160, and Mount Airy never trailed again. The next three Mount Airy wrestlers, Jackson Tumbarello (170), John Bennett (182) and Kristian Porter (195) received forfeits and the Bears moved out to a 22-3 advantage.
After the two sides double-forfeited the 220-pound weight class, Avery Lawing of West Stokes got his team back on the board with a pin of Mount Airy’s Nate Kiebler. The Wildcats then received a forfeit at 106 to make it 22-15, but had to forfeit at 113 against the Bears’ Barron Pilson.
At 120 pounds, Osorno pinned Stokes’ Isaac Church for a 34-15 Bear lead, and the visitors kept rolling at 126 and 132, where Daniel Olvera downed Austin Francis on a 14-0 major decision and then Matthew Gilley pinned Zach Watts, respectively.
The Wildcats’ Evan Wall and Garrett Lowe each received forfeits to end the match.
Several of the same Bear grapplers were key to the victory over Starmount. Pilson, Osorno, Olvera, both Tumbarellos, Bennett and Porter were all unbeaten in the tournament.
Last Tuesday, the Bears competed in a tri-meet at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, with 1A power Voyager Academy of Durham as the third team. Against the 4A host school, the teams opened at 113 pounds and traded blows back and forth until the Demons held a narrow lead going into the final match of the night, where Pilson needed a victory at 106 to put the Bears back over the top. He delivered in style, pinning his man.
In the match against Voyager, the Durham school used a handful of wins from individual standouts to stay in contention on the scoreboard, but the Bears’ greater depth, even if shorthanded, lifted it to a 48-27 win.
Pilson, Daniel Troutman, Osorno, Olvera, Hernan Ramirez, Cameron Moore, Porter and Nate Kiebler all scored victories for Mount Airy.
The Bears finally come home on Thursday night, when West Stokes and North Wilkes come calling.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.