3 wrestlers fifth in state

Published 10:00 am Thursday, February 22, 2018

Anthony Olmedo and his Davie wrestling teammates did not reach the sport’s mountaintop in the 4-A individual championship meet at the Greensboro Coliseum on Feb. 15-17. But Olmedo, Hunter Strickland and Matthew King showed they have some dog in them, some fight, as they won their final matches to capture fifth place.

All eight War Eagles picked up at least one win, including Joseph Myers, Bryson Hunter, Josh Shore, Nick Gillis and Bill Trader. They combined for 18 wins as Davie tied for ninth out of 59 teams. Mooresville won the championship with 125.5 points, followed by Cary (96), Ragsdale (93.5), Lake Norman (84.5), Hickory Ridge (76.5), Broughton (74.5), Holly Springs (61), Jack Britt (54.5) and Davie/Mallard Creek (53). West Forsyth, which was state runner-up in the dual team playoffs, was 16th with 34.5 points.

“I thought we wrestled well,” coach Buddy Lowery said.


Davie’s foremost contender for a state championship was Olmedo, but a one-point loss in the semifinals sent him to the consolation bracket.

The junior in the 220 weight class received a first-round forfeit from Purnell Swett’s Millard Locklear, who suffered a broken ankle in the regional the previous week.

Olmedo’s 3-2 quarterfinal win over Mallard Creek’s Darrius Smith was a fierce battle that tasted like banana pudding when the final seconds ticked off.

“That was a big ol’ kid,” assistant coach Perry Long said of Smith. “He looked like a football tackle. He looked like a heavyweight compared to Anthony. He had monkeys on both shoulders. We don’t have an athlete in the school that looks like that. That was some big stuff.”

In the semifinals, however, Jalen Brooks of Cardinal Gibbons stopped the momentum that Olmedo had built for weeks. Brooks, 36-0 at the time, slipped away with a 1-0 victory to hand Olmedo his first loss in 44 matches. Olmedo gave up the point early in the second period and never could break through. A banged-up shoulder hurt his chances.

“Anthony couldn’t get an escape. He just didn’t have any explosiveness,” Lowery said. “(His shoulder) popped out a couple times during the week (and during the state tournament). It’s got to be sore. He was afraid to shoot.”

Olmedo continued to sputter in the consolation semifinals, losing 3-2 to Larry Williams of Corinth-Holders.

“There isn’t anybody easy to beat,” Lowery said. “And there are some manchilds there.”

Olmedo and Mallard Creek’s Smith met again in the fifth-sixth match. Olmedo prevailed again, this time decisively as he pinned the behemoth in the first period.

“(Smith) was built like a brick,” Lowery said. “You talk about a man.”

With a year to go, Olmedo is already destined to go down as one of the all-timers. After placing fourth in the state at heavyweight as a sophomore, he went 53-4 this year. He’s 139-29 for his career, tied for 11th in wins. Early in the season, he became the 12th War Eagle to reach 100 career wins before his junior year. He’s got the second-most wins in history at the end of his junior year; Michael Waters is atop the list with 148.

Lowery saluted Olmedo for finishing strong despite the balky shoulder.

“He’s going to get his shoulder operated on in a couple weeks,” Lowery said. “He said it popped out twice (during the state meet). He said: ‘I don’t care. I’m going to go for it.’ He’s got a good mindset and he just put it out of his head. He’s a tough wrestler.”


Even though Strickland, a senior at 170, suffered a knee injury on the third day, he gutted out fifth place by winning four of six matches.

He opened with a 5-3 win over Riverside’s Jatavian Hart. In the quarterfinals, though, he suffered a painful pin with two seconds left in the third to Josh Gilliam of Mallard Creek. Strickland gave the 49-4 opponent a run for his money.

Strickland came back like a champ, pinning Isaac Strickland of Independence in the first period and winning 7-2 over Rocky River’s Success Odoemena. He lost 15-7 to Cary’s Ryan Wolfram in the consolation semifinals, but he responded with a 9-0 major decision over Wake Forest’s Connor Voelker in the fifth-sixth match.

After going 1-2 in the state as a junior, Strickland placed while closing with a 28-6 record. He was a warrior. After missing significant time with a knee injury, he overcame an injury to the other knee in his final hours as a War Eagle.

“He hurt his other knee (in the loss to Wolfram),” Lowery said. “He dinged it up, but he was able go.”


King did an admirable job on his way to fifth at 182. Despite losing his first match, the hungry and fearless junior won four of his next five matches.

The first-round loss was a 19-8 major decision to Lake Norman’s Nathan Dugan, who improved to 44-2.

“Matthew had a rough draw,” assistant coach Timmy Allen said. “Matthew was battling with him. Just (lack of) experience really got to him. The kid was real physical and he’s been in the show before. Matthew did all he could.”

King’s long road through the consolations included a 5-3 win over Shylik Scriven of Athens Drive, a 3-2 win over Joshua Patterson of High Point Central and a first-period pin over Marvin Rich of Mallard Creek. He lost 6-2 to Tyrese Byrd of South View in the consolation semifinals, but he answered with a 4-3 win over Northwest Guilford’s George Cooke in the match for fifth place.

King went from a 4-3 sophomore year to 42-13 this year. For Olmedo, Strickland and King, fifth is nothing to scoff at.

“King had to wrestle hard and he wrestles hard,” Lowery said. “Last week (in the regional), Cooke pinned King. King got a takedown in the last five seconds (in the rematch). He was aggressive. That’s a good thing about him.”


Hunter faced a daunting task in the first round, pitted against Wake Forest’s Jack Malone, a regional champion who came in ranked No. 1 in 4-A at 195. Malone finished third in the state in 2017 and strutted into Thursday with a mean record (34-2).

The Davie senior was thrust into a 5-0 hole in a matter of seconds. In a phenomenal turn of events, Hunter pinned Malone with 46 seconds left in the first. The upset demonstrated the strength of one kid’s will and excited the crowd.

“It was a match probably nobody in the whole coliseum thought Bryson had a chance in,” said a giddy Allen. “But Bryson was fearless and went after him. (Malone) was the favorite to win the bracket. It was unbelievable.”

Malone attained the 5-0 lead by putting Hunter in a cradle. How did Hunter manage to get loose?

“Bryson has really good hips,” Allen said. “He hits what we call the star fish. He catches (Malone) on his back in a crab ride position. Bryson slid out of the star fish into a headlock and had the kid on the line. He locked it up real good, pulled the kid back in bounds and stuck him. It’s probably the biggest upset of the whole tournament so far. It might be the biggest upset of the whole tournament.”

Hunter described the incredible feeling.

“I went into it thinking I’ve got nothing to lose. I might as well go out there and give it my all,” Hunter said. “I was baiting him with a leg. Whenever he put it in, I hipped down and put him in danger. I felt him panicking and that’s when I locked up that front headlock. When I sucked him in is when I got it deep and tight and he couldn’t get out. It’s definitely one of my most exciting and proud moments.”

Bryson is the son of a former stalwart for Lowery. Michael Hunter and the 1994 War Eagles won the dual team state championship and Michael went on to finish third in the state at 145.

“He always tells me I’ve always been a better wrestler than him – just not as mean,” Bryson said. “He wants me to do better than he ever did.”

Although Hunter’s glow dimmed with an 8-4 loss to Jack Britt’s Erick Martinez, he trounced Hickory Ridge’s Connor Helm in the first period.

In his next match against Page’s Mohamed Teia, Hunter deserved a late victory by decision, but sport – like life itself – isn’t fair. Hunter was robbed of points and ultimately fell in overtime after they battled for six-plus minutes.

Lowery argued for takedown and near-fall points – to no avail.

“It shouldn’t have gone to overtime,” Lowery said. “In the third period, we didn’t get a takedown or a near-fall. The referee goes: ‘Illegal hold (on Teia).’ Well, we should have got the takedown and near-fall. We should have gotten points and didn’t.”

Instead of moving on, Hunter had to go out at 2-2. His season concluded at 41-12 overall. But what a jump from last year, when he went 16-8 and failed to reach the state.


Myers, a senior at 145, overcame a first-round loss, pinning Jack Britt’s John Baker in the first period and beating Middle Creek’s Dawson Majette 15-8. He was eliminated by a pin from Sanderson’s Caide Smith. With a 2-2 showing, he went 33-14 as a senior.


Shore (113), Gillis (120) and Trader (126) contributed one win apiece. Shore’s tournament started with a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to South Caldwell’s Kaleb Queen, who ran his record to 44-4. It was 3-3 in the final minute. Queen took the lead with an escape.

“With about 15 seconds left, Josh was working, working, working for a takedown and couldn’t get it,” Allen said.

Shore pinned Purnell Swett’s Caden Scott in the first period before losing 7-3 to Apex’s Gabe Baragona. He went 42-11 as a senior and 117-48 for his career.

After beating Laney’s Seth Thomas 9-4 in the first round, Gillis lost 11-4 to Apex’s Kaleb Williams – the eventual runner-up with two losses all year – and 4-3 to Hough’s Sam Westmoreland.

After waiting in the shadows as a freshman and sophomore, Gillis became a two-year stud, going 48-8 as a senior and 93-21 in his varsity run.

After losing 6-2 to Jaxon Maroney of Holly Springs, Trader won a 10-0 major decision over Jake Stewart of Ashley. He lost 4-1 to Strawn Wilson of High Point Central. After going 2-0 as a backup sophomore, Trader elevated his game to the tune of 27-11.


Lowery gave his amazing staff verbal pats on the back. There’s Allen, Long and Mark McKnight. There’s Isaiah Whitley, a volunteer coach. There’s another volunteer helper in Carl Wagstaff. And then there’s Russell Hilton, who pilots South Davie’s program and also finds the time to get to as many Davie matches as possible.

“Whitley was there everyday,” Lowery said. “He might have missed two practices the whole year. Wagstaff helps behind the scenes as far as paperwork. He’s there for moral support. Hilton would go help at JV tournaments. He wasn’t at practice every day, of course, because he had South Davie. They hustle.”