Middle schools split wrestling matchups

Published 9:41 am Friday, December 30, 2016

That is what middle-school wrestling between county rivals should look like. Ellis, North Davie and South Davie went at each other with fury on Dec. 16, not backing down, storming back when facing a serious deficits and creating drama at the end.

When all three magnificently competitive matches were in the books, all three teams went 1-1. Ellis beat South. North beat Ellis. South beat North. North hosted this ultra-intense tri-meet. They will do it again Jan. 13 at Ellis in the final matches of the season.

“I’d like to have gone 2-0,” South assistant coach Russell Hilton said. “We’ve got another shot on (Jan. 13). It will be close next time, too. Both of our matches will go down to the wire. A match or two either way might be the difference.”

“A pin here or there and we’re 2-0,” North coach Jamey Holt said. “But if we give up a pin somewhere, we’re 0-2 just as easy. Really, all three teams are almost even. I don’t think you could walk away saying anybody is better than anybody else. (Jan. 13) will be Part II. It will come down to who gets a pin here or there or who stays off their back or who gets a major instead of a regular decision.”

Ellis and South kicked things off. To this point, Ellis’ only loss was 66-33 to West Rowan. South’s only loss was also to West Rowan, 72-30. Ellis seized an 8-7 edge in weight classes to escape with a 51-45 victory.

Pins by Jacob Perry (83-pound weight class), Ethan Deas and Bryson Parker staked the Jaguars to an 18-0 lead. South got on the board with Adam Szewczyk’s pin at 106. Nate Whitley (113) and Matthew Downey (120) delivered pins to give Ellis a commanding 30-6 advantage. Brian Reyes (8-6 decision at 126) and Elijah Smith (pin at 132) pulled South within 30-15. Ellis’ Joshua Blizard pinned at 138, South’s Ivan Poag pinned at 145 and Ellis’ Isaac Webb received a forfeit at 152 as Ellis held a 42-21 lead.

But everyone knew it was about to get tight because Ellis always forfeits at 160, 170 and 182. When Devonte Lyerly, Ashton Williams and Matthew Harris took the freebies in those weight classes, it was 42-39 with three matches left.

The turning point for Ellis was Tyler Tilley’s minor decision at 195. Avery Taylor was the hard-luck loser for South. Instead of South being tied or even up by three, Ellis had a 45-39 edge.

“Avery had him pinned,” Hilton said. “Avery had him on his back and the referee slapped the mat as the buzzer went off. But he waved it off. We talked to the ref and he said the buzzer went off. But he lifted his hand before the buzzer went off. The buzzer went off and then his hand hit the mat. He didn’t account for the reaction time it takes for his hand to get to the mat. That was the difference in the match right there.”

When Ellis’ Robby Landry pinned at 220, the Jaguars had an insurmountable 51-39 lead. South’s Carlos Lazcano pinned at 250 for the final margin.

“I felt like we should have won, but it wasn’t our day,” Hilton said.

“It’s been a great first half to the season,” Ellis coach Justin Perry said. “I’m seeing improvement in all the boys. If they stay focussed, I believe the second half will be even better.”

South’s 13th straight loss to Ellis was a bitter pill to swallow. The previous meeting was also a barnburner, with Ellis prevailing 43-42 on Jan. 12, 2016.

Next up was North against Ellis. After holding a lead through the first nine weight classes, Ellis grabbed the upper hand at 145. North regained control, then won a do-or-die battle at 250 to emerge with a 51-42 victory.

Nine of the 16 matches went North’s way, including the first three when Lane Hill major decisioned at 83, Gray Thurlo pinned at 90 and Blake Jenkins pinned at 98. Ellis responded with pins from Tyler Snyder at 106 and Whitley at 113. North’s Sam Collins pinned at 120, but Ellis’ Downey pinned at 126.

When North’s Jadon Davis pinned at 132, the Wildcats had a 28-18 lead. Back came Ellis, getting a pin from Blizard at 138 and a forfeit for Webb at 145. The Jaguars were ahead 30-28.

The teams double forfeited at 152. North’s Sawyer Sheets, Tanner Atkins and D.J. Hatley received forfeits at 160, 170 and 182, resulting in a 46-30 advantage for the ‘Cats.

North was one win from clinching, but Tilley, who pinned at 195, and Jeremy Flores, who pinned at 220, had other ideas for Ellis. Now it was North 46, Ellis 42, with one match to go.

“After the three forfeits, I told my 195, 220 and heavyweight: ‘Out of you three, we need one win. All we need is one win,’” Holt said. “When the first two got pinned, I was like: ‘OK, now we really need a win.’ Josh Young, my assistant coach, talked to Brandon (Logan) a little bit, but we tried to lessen the circumstances if we could.”

To remain unbeaten on the season, North needed its heavyweight to step up. He did just that with a second-period pin.

“Brandon got taken down (in the first period),” Holt said. “He stayed on his base and didn’t give up anything. We had choice for the second period and we took top. Once he got him broke down, he kept his weight forward and ran a power half in there. Once he got him turned over, we felt pretty good – unless he let go of everything – that we were going to be able to get a pin.”

Based on the results of the first two matches, a down-to-the-wire struggle between North and South was all but inevitable. What a terrific match it was, with South winning 54-45.

South took nine weight classes. North took eight. The Wildcats saw their eight-match winning streak, dating to last year, come to an end. It was their first loss since Southeast Guilford beat them on Jan. 9, 2016.

But it was all North early on. Pins by Hill, Thurlo and Logan Yokley pushed the Wildcats to an 18-0 lead. For South, Szewczyk and Seth Webb countered with pins at 106 and 113. When Collins (pin at 120), Gavin Arrington (decision at 126) and Davis (pin at 132) came through for North, it had a 33-12 cushion.

South roared back. Darius Leonard pinned at 138, Poag got a forfeit at 145, and after North’s Sheets pinned at 152, South ripped off five straight six-pointers.

The run started with Lyerly’s forfeit at 160. Williams (170), Taylor (182), Harris (195) and Lazcano (220) followed with pins. The Tigers had put it out of reach at 54-39, and they forfeited to Logan at heavyweight.

Last year, South’s 48-40 win over North snapped the Tigers’ 12-match losing streak to North. Now South has taken two in a row from North.

“Our upper weights wrestled well,” Hilton said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do with our lower weights. Our lower weights are sixth and seventh graders for the most part. So they’re still like babies on the mat.”

“I knew with (South coach Perry Long) having a full lineup, I thought we matched up better with Ellis than we did with South – and it showed,” Holt said.

North cruised past Summit, 52-30, on the road on Dec. 19. South manhandled Forbush, 66-27, on the road on Dec. 20. North entered the holiday break with a 6-1 record. South is 5-2 and Ellis 4-2.

North’s top performers are Collins, who is 7-0 with seven pins, and Hill, who is also 7-0. Davis, Arrington and Logan are all 6-1.

Lyerly is 7-0 for South. Taylor is 6-1 and Poag 4-0.

Webb is 6-0 for Ellis. Perry, Whitley, Downey and Blizard are 5-1.