South wrestlers topple county rivals

Published 10:12 am Thursday, January 19, 2017

The middle-school wrestling sequel between county rivals did not live up to the original in terms of drama. Blame South Davie, which stole the show with a 2-0 showing at Ellis on Jan. 13.

When Ellis, North Davie and South Davie met at North on Dec. 16, all three teams went 1-1, all three matches were down-to-the-wire thrillers and all three losers were lamenting couldas and shouldas.

In Friday’s gathering at Ellis, the Tigers left little doubt who’s the top dog in 2016-17. They beat North by 24 points. They beat Ellis for the first time in eight years. There’s also this: They beat North and Ellis in the same season for the first time in eight years.

Meanwhile, Ellis went 1-1 and North 0-2.

“They were so pumped up,” South coach Perry Long said of his wrestlers. “They said: ‘Coach, we’re the best team in the county.’ They were hugging me. The little sixth graders were like: ‘Coach, we did it. You said we could do it.’ I wanted them to feel that. I want them to be proud of that.”

In the first match of the evening, the Tigers recovered from an early deficit to beat north 60-36. The gap was wider than the first meeting, when South prevailed 54-45.

North bolted to an 18-0 lead on pins by Lane Hill (85 weight class), J.T. Richards (92) and Logan Yokley (100). Hill’s pin came in 21 seconds.

“They don’t panic,” Long said of his guys. “About every match we get down early because the first three kids are sixth graders.”

When South’s Adam Szewczyk (pin at 108), Seth Webb (10-8 decision at 115) and Dylan Hawkins (11-9 decision at 122) and North’s Sam Collins (pin at 128) and Jadon Davis (pin at 134) traded blows, North held the upper hand at 30-12.

This is when South hit its stride, posting eight straight wins with five pins and three forfeits. The 48-0 run came from Darius Leonard (pin at 140), Ivan Poag (pin at 147), Daniel Garcia (forfeit at 154), Devonte Lyerly (pin at 162), Ashton Williams (pin at 172), Avery Taylor (pin at 184), Matthew Harris (forfeit at 197) and Carlos Lazcano (forfeit at 220).

South gave North’s Brandon Logan at forfeit at heavyweight. North was missing two to injuries – Max Martinez (4-3 record at 95) and Gavin Arrington (6-1 at 126).

Ellis Beats ND

Ellis went on a 39-3 run, beat North 54-27 and settled a score from Dec. 16, when the Wildcats downed the Jaguars 51-42. Ellis ended a three-match losing streak in the series.

North jumped to an 18-0 lead with pins from Hill (85), Richards (92) and Blake Jenkins (100). Ellis’ road back began with Tyler Snyder’s pin at 108 and Emerson Belk’s decision at 115.

North’s Collins had a 15-2 major decision at 122, but North’s Davis suffered a controversial loss at 128. He appeared to throw a hard cross face. The referee saw it differently, ruling it a punch to the gut. As a result, Ellis’ Josh Blizard won by disqualification.

Ellis would claim seven of eight weight classes during one stretch, including Charlie Frye’s pin at 134, Ashton Douglas’ pin at 140 in his season debut, Logan Ramsey’s forfeit at 147 and Isaac Webb’s pin at 162.

After North’s Tanner Atkins received a forfeit at 172, Ellis took the final three, with Tyler Tilley pinning at 183, Robby Landry getting a forfeit at 220 and Jeremy Flores winning a 9-5 decision at 250.

SD Beats Ellis

In the final match of the day, South finally solved the Ellis puzzle with a 51-37 victory.

It was a big deal because the Tigers stopped a 13-match losing streak in the series. The long losing streak included a 51-45 kick to the shin on Dec. 16.

Chase Hilton (pin in his season debut at 85), Jacob Perry (17-10 decision at 92) and Bryson Parker (pin at 100) staked Ellis to a 15-0 lead.

South responded with a 51-16 run while seizing 10 of 13 weight classes. The tear included Szewczyk’s 9-8 decision at 108, Webb’s pin at 115, Hawkins’ 12-11 decision at 122, Leonard’s 18-second pin at 140, Garcia’s pin at 147 and Poag’s pin at 154.

Webb’s first-period pin at 115 was a different outcome than the first meeting, when Webb lost to Nate Whitley. Whitley missed both matches on this day with an injury, erasing a guy who is 5-1 with five pins from Ellis’ lineup.

Hawkins won a decision at 122, a spot where Ellis triumphed in the first meeting.

“Hawkins had been at 128,” South assistant coach Russell Hilton said. “He finally got his weight down to get into the lineup at 122. He also pinned against North, so he got two big wins.”

For Ellis, Matthew Downey got a major decision at 128 and Blizard pinned at 134. Another pivotal moment for South came at 147, where Garcia got a pin. The last time around, South forfeited at 147.

I. Webb of Ellis had an impressive second-period pin at 162 over a 9-0 Lyerly. The score was 2-0 when Webb put Lyerly on his back.

“Devonte doesn’t know wrestling enough to wrestle a kid that’s been on the mat that long,” Long said of his seventh grader. “Webb knows more wrestling. Webb told me: ‘Devonte is way stronger than me. But when he turned in, I knew I was going to catch him eventually.’ That was good for Webb, too, because he hasn’t wrestled anybody that strong this year.”

Webb’s big moment gave Ellis a 31-30 lead. South had a 36-31 edge when Williams received a forfeit at 172.

There was a major showdown at 184. In December, Ellis’ Tilley squeaked past South’s Taylor. It was a tough one to swallow for Taylor, who thought he had a last-second pin. This time Taylor emerged on top, getting a late takedown to nail down a 3-0 decision.

When South’s Harris got a forfeit at 197, it was out of reach at 45-31. South’s Lazcano pinned at 220, and Ellis’ Flores pinned at 250.

“We had seven matches go the distance,” Long said. “We wrestled real well.”

“It was two evenly-matched teams between us and Ellis, and North is right there with us,” Hilton said.

The Tigers’ signature day closed their season at 8-2. Their top records belonged to Lyerly (9-1), Taylor (9-1), Szewczyk (8-2), Williams (8-2), Harris (8-2) and Hawkins (5-0).

North finished 6-3. Coach Jamey Holt raved about Collins (9-0 with eight pins), Hill (9-0 with six pins) and Richards (5-0 in an injury-shortened season). All three are seventh graders.

“Collins is very coachable,” Holt said. “He’s quiet but leads by example. He’s explosive with a double-leg finish. He’s solid all around – on top and bottom positions. He likes to use the chicken wing.

“Richards has sound technique. He uses his quickness and mat awareness as well as anybody.

“Hill is gritty and fun to coach. He’s tough, physical and fearless. He’d probably wrestle heavyweight if I’d let him.”

Davis and Logan went 7-2 for North. Yokley was 5-2.

Ellis is 5-3 with two matches left. Webb is a seventh grader who is 8-0 with six pins. Blizard is a first-year eighth grader who is 7-1 with six pins.

“Webb is a great athlete,” coach Justin Perry said. “He is very strong. He has the body build of a junior in high school. His talent level is much above most seventh graders. He has improved a great bit since the beginning of the season. He is also one of the most respectful and humble kids that I have ever coached.

“I believe Blizard is the best all-around wrestler on our team. If he sticks with wrestling and puts in the extra work, he could be a state champ in high school. He’s also a great leader. In the one match he did lose, he was up by 10 points and got caught.”

Four Jaguars have 6-2 records: Tilley, Flores, Perry and Downey.