The North Surry Greyhounds aced the first exam on Tuesday night.
The final exam comes Friday night. Pass that one, and Coach Eric Jessup and his team make school history.
The Hounds’ wrestling team returned to Western Piedmont Athletic Conference play at the Ron King Gym, facing a Forbush team that had given them problems in years last. The visiting Falcons earned a favorable draw when the match started out at 113 pounds, and through the first seven weight classes, Forbush took the lead four different times. But when the higher weight classes rolled around, everything ended up in either a North Surry pin or a forfeit, and the home team rolled to a 54-28 victory.
“Forbush is a good program and they always have a good, well-coached team,” said Jessup. “I was very pleased with the way we wrestled tonight. Any conference win in this conference is hard-earned.”
The win leaves the Hounds at 2-0 in conference play, and technically speaking, they have four more league foes remaining. However, the 2017 WPAC title will be decided on Friday night at Surry Central, where the Greyhounds and the Golden Eagles will be joined by West Stokes, the only other team in the conference with a real chance to win the league.
If North Surry wins both matches, it will have won or shared its conference title for 10 consecutive seasons.
“Those are two very good teams, and that’s going to be a tough tri-meet,” said Jessup. “West Stokes is always one of the better teams in the league and so is Surry Central. Coach (Stephen) Priddy always has his kids ready for us. But if we’re fortunate enough to win those matches, we’ll be conference champions for 10 years in a row and 11 out of 12.”
North’s final two league matches are at home against conference newcomers Atkins and Walkertown, neither of which can realistically beat any of the top teams in the WPAC.
Tuesday’s wrestling between the Hounds and the Falcons was highly competitive. The teams had matches at 10 of the 14 weight classes, and each team won five of the 10. The difference in the match was that Forbush had no wrestlers in the 145 and 170-195 weight classes, and the 24 points earned via forfeit turned what was otherwise a close match into a relatively easy North Surry victory.
Forbush’s Worth Martin scored a second-period pin over the Hounds’ Brandon Goins at 152 pounds to give the Falcons their last lead, at 24-18 with seven weight classes left to contest. The Falcons actually led by 12 points on the mat at this point, because they had forfeited to North’s Reid Walker at 145 pounds. Unfortunately for them, more forfeits were on the horizon, because they simply lacked depth at the higher weights.
Tye Smith started things rolling for North Surry when he downed Jovanis Pozo at 160 pounds, scoring the pin in 69 seconds to tie the team score. Then the Falcons simply ran out of bodies.
The Hounds Sammy McMillian walked out onto the mat for the 170-pound match, and the referee raised his hand in a walkover. North never trailed again. Forbush had to forfeit the next two weight classes as well, with Riley Jenkins collecting a win at 182 and Chase Brintle doing so at 195. Now the lead was 42-24, and the Falcons would need to pin out just to tie the score and take the team victory for having the most pins.
That wasn’t about to happen. Jessup sent out Avery Simmons at 220 pounds. The standout, who normally wrestles at 195 for the Hounds, had no trouble at the higher weight class even though he came in at just 187. It took him just 56 seconds to pin Dylan Doby and clinch the team victory for the home team.
At 285, Jared Tickle made it a clean sweep of the higher weight classes for North. Avery Durham mounted a challenge early on, but Tickle got stronger as the opening period moved along and seemed to be closing in on a victory when the first period ended. He got it 10 seconds into the second period for a 54-24 North Surry lead, a margin that meant that the Greyhounds would have won the match even with no forfeits.
Because the match had opened at 113 pounds, the teams went back to the top of the order for the final match of the night. At 106, the Falcons’ Eli Thomas engaged North’s Landon Hiatt in a high-action match that went the distance, the only weight class of the evening that didn’t end in a forfeit or a pin. Thomas was in the ascendant for most of the match, but late in the second period, Hiatt scored a reversal and nearly pinned him. Thomas recovered in the third period and went on to earn a 15-7 decision.
The first few weight classes saw the teams trade pins. The opener at 113 nearly went the distance, with Forbush’s Hayden Price leading 16-2 when he finally pinned the Hounds’ game but overmatched Hunter George with 24 seconds remaining in the third period. North’s Kaleb Martin answered with a first-period pin at 1:44 of the first period. The Falcons’ Chase Farmer returned the favor with a pin of Adam Martin at 126. Toby Pyles scored a pin at 132 to tie the team score at 12-12 for North.
At 138 pounds, the Falcons regained the lead on an early third-period pin by Armando Velasquez, who punned Jadus Long. Walker collected his forfeit to tie the score at 18. but Forbush’s Martin gave his team the lead one final time.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.