Bears pin Starmount, move on

By John Cate - jcate@mtairynews.com
Mount Airy’s Chris Butera pinned Starmount’s Lucas Zamora at 152 pounds to clinch the victory and send the Bears back to the dual-team state quarterfinals. - John Cate | The News
The Bears’ Joan Ramirez scored a major decision over Sterlin Holbook at 138 pounds in Tuesday’s second-round playoff match against Starmount. - John Cate | The News
The Bears’ Trevin Robinson came from behind to earn an overtime win over the Rams’ Quinn Moran at 113 pounds. - John Cate | The News

After four years of being passed over despite winning the Northwest 1A Conference title every year, Mount Airy finally got to host two rounds of the NCHSAA 1A dual-team state playoffs on Tuesday night.

The Granite Bears were the highest seed and held a first-round bye in what amounted to a tri-meet with South Stokes and Starmount, who wrestled each other first, with the winner earning the right to wrestle Mount Airy. The Rams beat the Sauras 42-36 in the opener, which lasted only about a half-hour and ended with Starmount forfeiting several weight classes at the end after gaining an insurmountable lead. In the nightcap, the Bears won 37-24 in a match that concluded with two weight classes remaining.

“They have a really tough team, and we had some close, hard-fought matches,” said Mount Airy coach Cody Atkins. “We’re missing a starter for the rest of the season, and that’s going to hurt us in any title run. I told the guys they needed to step up tonight and we did.”

Mount Airy (26-7) clinched the team victory at 152 pounds, where Chris Butera scored a third-period pin against Lucas Zamora with just 23 seconds left. The win extended the Bears’ lead to 37-18, and meant that even if Starmount won the last two weight classes by pin, it couldn’t catch up. As it turned out, Mount Airy forfeited at 160 and 170 was recorded as a double forfeit, with no points for either team.

The Bears will wrestle Cherryville (21-18) on Thursday in the state quarterfinals, but the site of this match has not yet been determined. The Ironmen hosted two rounds of their own on Tuesday, with Elkin beating East Surry 42-32 and then falling 37-32 to Cherryville. Two other teams will be present, one of which will be defending state champion Robbinsville (30-4), and the other likely to be either Mitchell or Swain County.

The showdown between the Bears and the Rams was a rematch of a meet which had taken place back on Nov. 25 at West Stokes’ Turkey Duals. Mount Airy had won that one 42-30, but both teams had several wrestlers out for various reasons, and much more was at stake on Tuesday.

“I couldn’t be more happy with the way we wrestled,” said Atkins. “The ones that needed to get pins got pins, and the ones who needed to avoid getting pinned didn’t get pinned. Everyone did exactly what I asked of them. The effort was strong all across the board.”

The teams opened at 182, where John Bennett was once again facing Starmount’s Dawson Nixon, who he’d decisioned 3-0 that day in King. This time, he probably never worked harder to get three team points. Bennett scored a first-period takedown, only to see Nixon tie him when he opened down and scored a reversal in the second. Nixon was down again in the third, but made a bid for victory when he tried to escape with about 20 seconds to go. Bennett held him and they went to overtime, where he just missed a takedown at the end of the minute of sudden death. He finally got it done in a 30-second second OT, then rode out Nixon in a second 30-second period for the 4-2 win.

Eric Olvera gave the Bears a 9-0 lead when he scored a pin in just 72 seconds against Jake Groce, but the Rams answered with two victories of their own. At 220, Caleb Money had Mount Airy’s Kristian Porter in trouble a number of times, but Porter fought off every attempt to pin him and the match ended as a 9-2 point decision. At 285, Antonio Lopez did pin Nate Kiebler, and Starmount pulled even at 9-9 on the team scoreboard as the teams went back to the top of the order.

The Bears quickly regained the lead at 15-9 when Barron Pilson scored a first-period pin over Mikey Ramos at 106. They extended their lead to 18-9 with a second overtime win, this time with Trevin Robinson fighting back from an 8-6 deficit in the third period with a penalty point and an escape against Quinn Moran. In overtime, he scored a reversal and claimed a 10-8 victory.

“I was really proud of Trevin’s match,” said Atkins. “He got sick during the middle of the match, but then he came back in and won in overtime. That showed a lot of heart, the way he pushed through that.”

Starmount got six quick points when 120-pounder Devin Wood scored a first-period pin over Daniel Troutman, who was wrestling up two weight classes, but that was as close as the Rams were getting. In the 126-pound match, Daniel Olvera pinned Kekoa Brown after 1:14 of the first period for a 24-15 Mount Airy lead. Things were beginning to look grim for the visitors, and they got worse at 132, where Matthew Gilley held a 7-0 lead on Luis Sandoval, who’d pinned him back in November, after the first period. Both wrestlers rode out the other in the last two periods with no additional scoring, but now the Bears led by a dozen with just five weight classes left.

At 138 pounds, Joan Ramirez controlled his match against Sterlin Holbrook and finished with a flourish, scoring a three-point near-fall in the final seconds to win 10-2 and add four more points to the Bears’ team tally, at 31-15. The Rams finally stopped the bleeding at 145, where Joshua Pardue held off Armando Estrada for a 4-2 decision that closed the gap to 31-18.

Any kind of victory for Butera at 152 meant the Bears would advance, and he scored a first-period takedown and held that 2-0 lead going to the third period. In the final frame, he opened down, made an escape and then scored another takedown to lead 5-0. It looked like he’d settle for the decision, but then kept attacking and finally got the pin with 23 seconds left on the clock.

Mount Airy’s Chris Butera pinned Starmount’s Lucas Zamora at 152 pounds to clinch the victory and send the Bears back to the dual-team state quarterfinals.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_DSC_0087-152.jpgMount Airy’s Chris Butera pinned Starmount’s Lucas Zamora at 152 pounds to clinch the victory and send the Bears back to the dual-team state quarterfinals. John Cate | The News

The Bears’ Joan Ramirez scored a major decision over Sterlin Holbook at 138 pounds in Tuesday’s second-round playoff match against Starmount.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_DSC_0068-138.jpgThe Bears’ Joan Ramirez scored a major decision over Sterlin Holbook at 138 pounds in Tuesday’s second-round playoff match against Starmount. John Cate | The News

The Bears’ Trevin Robinson came from behind to earn an overtime win over the Rams’ Quinn Moran at 113 pounds.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_DSC_0028-113.jpgThe Bears’ Trevin Robinson came from behind to earn an overtime win over the Rams’ Quinn Moran at 113 pounds. John Cate | The News
Mount Airy advances to state wrestling quarterfinals with 37-24 win

By John Cate

jcate@mtairynews.com

Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.

Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.