The Mount Airy wrestling team finally got to wrestle on its brand-new mat, and the Granite Bears broke it in by putting on a clinic in front of a big crowd of supporters Wednesday night.
The first home match since the arrival of the new mat — a state-of-the-art design that features a large “MA” logo in the middle surrounded by what looks like a stone wall with the words “Granite Bears” on it — saw Mount Airy hosting a tri-meet with Carroll County and Alleghany high schools. After the Cavaliers and Trojans wrestled each other to start the evening, the Bears took to the mat and dispatched Carroll 59-12, then downed Alleghany by a 63-18 margin to end the night.
The Bears, who had already looked solid in their early-season performances, took things up a notch on Wednesday.
“I can tell the difference in our guys as far as being in shape compared to two weeks ago. That means we’re going in the right direction and I’m really excited about it,” said Mount Airy coach Cody Atkins. “These were two really good teams with coaches that I respect a lot, and we wrestled well tonight.”
The Bears actually lost just three individual matches all night, choosing for various reasons to forfeit in a few other weight classes. However, both the Cavaliers and the Trojans brought a number of quality wrestlers to the meet, and Mount Airy had to earn its wins.
The most noteworthy victories came in the nightcap against Alleghany.
The second match of that showdown pitted the Bears’ Barron Pilson, who had already won against Carroll Co. earlier, against the Trojans’ Averil Lafferty. This one appeared to be a high-action match between two evenly-matched wrestlers, but it took a turn in the second period when Pilson suffered an injury while holding the lead.
“I don’t know if he pinched a nerve or hit something, but he said he couldn’t feel that hand, it just went numb,” said Atkins.
Pilson was in serious discomfort, but still able to continue after an injury timeout and some encouragement from his coaches. The junior then went after Lafferty with everything he had, ending the match less than 45 seconds after they resumed.
“Once he calmed down and started wrestling again, he ended up catching that guy with a Saturday night ride (a wrestling move also known as a double grapevine) and got the pin. It was an exciting match,” said Atkins.
At 120 pounds, the Bears’ Luis Osorno took on Evan Wagoner, who finished fourth in the state last year in his weight class. This one was a back-and-forth match that Osorno led 6-5 going into the third period. But he kept attacking and was eventually able to turn and pin his man after just 42 seconds of the final period.
“Luis kept on him and kept on him and ended up pinning him. I knew that was going to be a tough match,” said Atkins.
Mount Airy 152-pounder Chris Butera also got a challenge. Butera was pitted against the Trojans’ Gus Wagoner, who normally wrestles at 160 for Alleghany. Wagoner seemed to have the edge in the early going, scoring a takedown and then maintaining control, up until the point when he was whistled for an illegal throw. This seemed to fire up his opponent. When action resumed, Butera scored a reversal and then scored a three-point near-fall during a sequence where he was on the verge of pinning Wagoner for most of the last 45 seconds of the period. The Trojan was saved by the buzzer, but not for long, as Butera finished it after just 16 seconds of the second period.
John Bennett got in on the fun at 182 with a brilliant comeback win. The junior made a mistake in the first period and nearly got himself pinned by Alleghany’s Kody Blevins, but managed to hold his own after that. However, with a minute to go in the third period, the score was 9-4 and Blevins looked to be on his way to victory.
Not so fast. With the wrestlers at neutral, Bennett got a takedown, and knowing time was running out, went to work trying to turn his man. He succeeded in the last 15 seconds, and held Blevins on his back right to the buzzer, nearly winning it right then. The official awarded three points for a near-fall and Bennett had the 9-9 tie. In a one-minute sudden-death overtime, he was able to cross face and cover Blevins with 19 seconds left for an 11-9 victory.
“He got caught in that five-point move at the start of the match, and that’s why he was down by five in the third. To come back from that, that’s huge,” said Atkins. “In the third period, we just kept going, and going and going, and we seemed to look our best in the third period. That’s what you want as a coach, to look better at the end of the match than at the start of the match.”
The first match with Carroll Co. started with a forfeit win for Noetic Matto at 220 pounds. Pilson had a first-period pin at 106, Osorno a four-point major decision at 120, and Daniel Olvera had the first of his two pins at 126 pounds. Tripp Gilley had an impressive pin at 132, and later received a forfeit from Alleghany for his 2-0 day.
Colby Baker (138) and Hernan Ramirez (145) both received forfeits from the Cavaliers. Butera dominated for two periods at 152 before scoring a pin. At 160, Austin Tumbarello was facing a noticeably bigger wrestler, but ended up with a major decision win thanks to superior technique. His brother Jackson followed with a first-period pin at 171 before Bennett and Eric Olvera both received forfeits to end the match.
It was a good night to be an Olvera in Bear colors. Daniel had two first-period pins, and when Eric finally got to wrestle against Alleghany, he had a quick first-period pin.
Mount Airy’s Nate Kiebler had a forfeit win at 285 to open the Alleghany match.
The Bears return to the mat on Saturday morning, when they will make the short bus ride across town to compete in a tournament at North Surry.