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Boehm was a state wrestling champion

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Ninth in a series on Davie’s all-time individual state champions.

Compared to practice, Ryan Boehm’s senior year wrestling matches in 2004-05 were like a day off.

Boehm won the state championship at 215 as a junior, and he won every match as a senior at heavyweight. But – and it’s a huge “but” – he was only a part-time starter as a senior because there was another beast on the team at heavyweight – Ted Randolph.

Boehm and Randolph were both headed to college football careers, so it made no sense for either to drop weight and wrestle at 215. So Boehm and Randolph were forced to have weekly challenge matches to see which one would start. They went back and forth, but Randolph prevailed at the end of the regular season, meaning the job was his for the postseason run.

Their challenge matches are the stuff of legend. It’s still hard to fathom that a defending state champion did not get an opportunity to repeat.

Coach Buddy Lowery said then: “I was in a bad position as a coach.”

Teammate Timmy Allen: “Oh man, I had goosebumps watching it because we have two of the best heavyweights in the state on the same team and someone’s going to get their feelings hurt.”

Said assistant coach Howard Riddle, who would sometimes referee the challenge matches – when Lowery didn’t pay an official to ref the epic match in the practice room: “It was tough for me. I don’t want to see either one sitting. It’s a hard situation to be in as a coach.”

•••

Boehm, who moved from Chicago to Advance in third grade, paid his dues early in his career. As a freshman, he only saw six varsity matches, winning four of them for a Davie team that went 32-3. He became a starter as a sophomore and did good work for a team that won 30 of 35 matches. He went 28-13, won the Central Piedmont Conference title at his weight class, finished fourth in the Midwest Regional and split four matches in the state tournament despite being unranked.

Boehm raised his game to another level as a junior, and the War Eagles were dominant as usual even though there were only two seniors in the starting lineup. They picked up their 100th CPC win in 104 tries, captured the league for the 16th time in 19 years and produced 10 champions in the CPC Tournament.

Although Boehm was a reliable weapon at 215, he suffered some losses by razor-thin margins. One of them was 5-3 in overtime to South Rowan’s Andrew Moyer, who was ranked No. 1 at 215 by Super 32. (Boehm was ranked third.) In the CPC Tournament, Boehm toppled West Forsyth’s Rob Yoder, who was 41-5 with two losses to Boehm, but in the finals he lost again in OT to Moyer.

In the state duals, Davie thumped Hopewell 53-24 after roaring to a 53-0 lead and then forfeiting out. The second round at North Davie Middle pitted No. 3 Jordan against No. 4 Davie. It was billed as a huge matchup, but everything came remarkably easy for the War Eagles, who jumped on Jordan 43-7 before forfeiting the last three weight classes and winning 43-25.

“If you would have told me it’d be 31-0, I would have lost my butt,” Lowery said. “I would have said you’re crazy.”

Boehm, still ranked third, squeaked out a 1-0 decision over No. 2 Fred Campbell. He was due for a break.

“(Campbell) was beating the crap out of me,” Boehm said. “He was punching me the whole time. That explains the beauty marks. I don’t think the ref likes me, either. I just lucked out. I’ve gotten better at riding people. I’ve been working with Billy (Riddle) and Garrett (Parks). If you keep them down, you’re going to do fine.”

In the quarterfinals, Davie hosted top-ranked and undefeated Riverside. Davie was behind 34-18, but fans exploded when Boehm stuck his opponent in the third period. Then at heavyweight, Parks pinned in 28 seconds as the War Eagles pulled within 34-30 with one match left. Although they fell a hair short, they threw a mighty scare in the Pirates in 40-30 defeat. Riverside, which handed Davie two of its three losses, went on to claim its third straight state title.

In the Midwest Regional at Chapel Hill High, nine War Eagles earned state berths by placing in the top four, including Allen (first at 140), Boehm (second at 215), Russell Hilton (third at 103), Aaron Hollifield (third at 130), Jeremiah Raby (third at 145), Josh Barnes (third at 160), Zac Morton (fourth at 125), Riddle (fourth at 189) and Parks (fourth at heavyweight).

Allen rallied in miraculous fashion in the semifinals (11-10 upset over Mt. Tabor’s Chris Tucker), rolled in the finals and took home a gold medal.

But in the final at 215, Boehm just missed a regional crown, losing 3-2 to Campbell. It was the snakebitten Boehm’s sixth loss, with all six coming by a point or in OT, each one to Moyer or Campbell.

“I’m sure it sounds familiar for a coach to say the other guy stalled out, but I feel like Campbell stalled out on him again,” assistant coach Matt Sain said. “Boehm got hit for stalling, the ref hit Campbell for stalling, but I think he could have hit him more for stalling.”

Boehm exorcized all those close-loss demons in the state tournament at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem. While Moyer and Campbell stumbled into the consolations, Boehm got a pin and pulled out a pair of 3-1 decisions to advance to the finals.

“He’s smart, he moves good for a 215-pounder and looks are deceiving,” Lowery said. “He’s got to be a little stronger than everybody thinks. He doesn’t panic. He can stand the pressure of a one-point match – a lot better than I can.”

Boehm reached the sport’s mountaintop against Purnell Swett’s Kenwin Cummings, who challenged Boehm’s heart and toughness by taking a quick 2-0 lead and sending him to his back. Boehm responded with a convincing 9-3 victory that completed a 35-6 season.

“I’m touching the ceiling right now,” Boehm said. “It’s got to be the greatest feeling when you’re up big, you know the only way he can beat you is to pin you, you’ve got him ridden down and you’re looking up with eight seconds to go.

“My dad’s parents came in from St. Louis. They were supposed to go on vacation this weekend, but I kind of messed up their plans.

“I watched those lightweight guys do backflips and I said to myself: ‘I’m going to win and I’m going to be kind of classy.’ I’m not too agile anyway. I don’t really celebrate much. I probably only celebrate when no one’s around. Because if you say something or do something, people are going to gun for you.”

“I thought I had a really good chance. I just had tough breaks in conference and regionals. The last few weeks have been rough. They hurt me mentally for a while, but I knew what went wrong and I knew I could actually do this. All year I’ve been wrestling with Billy Riddle. The people I worked with all year has made all the difference.”

•••

Boehm was a brilliant student and a three-sport athlete, starring on the offensive line in football and qualifying for the state meet in the discus. Not only was he tough as nails, he was a student of the game. When it came to inspiring intensity and motivation, the 6-2, 260-pound center was as good as it gets.

O-line coach Sain: “When he sees the other team, it’s like pouring fuel to the fire. I’ve never seen him take a play off – never.”

OL coach Chad Groover: “He’s a perfectionist.”

Boehm: “I watch a lot of film during the week and I build everything up like a personal feud. The other guy probably doesn’t know who I am and probably doesn’t care, but I’ll pretend it’s something. I’ll try to find them when they’re stretching and I’ll make a fight up in my head. Then I just start yelling at people. I’ve worked myself up too much and then felt about sick.”

In September 2004, the War Eagles hosted Crest when the Chargers were ranked No. 1 in the state and coming off a 3AA championship season. Before the game, Boehm paced back and forth, staring at the Chargers and yelling at 355-pound nose guard Brandon Peterson. He was so jacked up that a coach grabbed him and told him to tone it down a notch.

“(Peterson) called my number out,” Boehm said. “He started it and I was just in the zone. If you could have been with us in the locker room, it was crazy. Junk was flying.”

The result was a 35-28 monumental victory for the War Eagles, who overcame a 28-14 deficit with 8:14 left in the fourth quarter.

Boehm: “Crest was supposed to win by 20. They were supposed to be too fast. They were supposed to be too big.”

Randolph: “Boehm is a gamer.”

Those War Eagles became the top winner ever, going 14-1 and making an unprecedented trip to the semifinals. Cooter Arnold (UNC), Boehm (29 pancake blocks), Randolph and DJ Rice (Coastal Carolina) made the all-Northwest team. Arnold, a running back/quarterback/cornerback, and linebacker Rice made all-state.

•••

Randolph wasn’t able to wrestle heavyweight as a junior because of a football knee injury, but he was back on the mat as a senior in 2004-05. Boehm put on serious weight before his senior year to prepare for a football career at Coastal Carolina. Randolph signed with Wake Forest as a tight end.

“If I want to play (college) football, there’s not room for a 215-pound lineman,” Boehm said.

Boehm, weighing in at 256, was among six state champions in Davie wrestling history at the time, but he had to compete against the 253-pound Randolph in an epic struggle for the heavyweight spot.

Randolph won the first challenge match 3-1. This was unheard-of stuff, a defending state champion starting the season on the bench.

Randolph: “It was pretty crazy. I got a black eye from it. It sucks that a state champion doesn’t get to wrestle. I hated to beat him, but I’m a competitor, too.”

Lowery: “Randolph might have won the state last year, too, if he’d been healthy.”

Boehm took the practice-room loss gracefully, cheering for Randolph during a hard-fought 2-0 win against Freedom.

“The thing that impressed me the most was Boehm was coaching Randolph,” Lowery said. “He was at the back wall coaching. I said: ‘Hey, if you’re going to coach, get your butt up here on the bench with me.’”

Randolph started 7-1, but Boehm won a challenge match, moved into the lineup and absolutely tortured opponents. Then, late in the regular season, it was Randolph’s turn. He won the job back when Boehm was 22-0 and one of two unbeatens on the team.

“It’s a shame they’re not somewhere in the middle of the lineup, where one of them could move up or down,” Lowery said.“There’s a lot of people that say: ‘All I want for Christmas is a heavyweight.’ And I’ve got two. Both of them have a lot of respect for each other. It’s a hard match to ref even when you bring a ref in. It’s going to be seven minutes.”

At Joel Coliseum, Allen made program history with his 54th win and captured the state title at 171. Hollifield (second at 130), Kyle Smith (fifth at 103), Hilton (sixth at 112) and Randolph (sixth at heavyweight) all placed.

Randolph was agonizingly close to winning it all. After recording pins in the first two rounds, his shoulder popped out early in the third period in the semifinals when he was leading unbeaten Justin Allen of Millbrook by a 2-1 score. With the clock melting away, Randolph had Allen wrapped up. The big guys went out of bounds at :05 and they reset with Allen on bottom. Allen got an escape an eyelash before the clock hit zeroes, tying the score at 2-2. Randolph eventually lost in double OT.

Randolph: “I kind of put it back in, but after that I had no arm strength left.”

J. Allen: “It was the toughest match of my season. It might have been the only match I’ve been down. Five seconds to get an escape – that’s a lot of pressure. That’s just kind of amazing.”

J. Allen took the gold, winning 6-2 over Wakefield’s Gavin Smith in the finals. With the shoulder hurting, Randolph decided to forfeit out and settle for sixth.

“Ted had a chance to win it all,” Riddle said. “The other semifinals wasn’t as strong, and (Randolph-Allen) probably should have been the final.”

Randolph had a distinguished career, going 17-2 as a senior and 57-7 for his career. Boehm’s senior record was 23-0. His career mark was a gaudy 90-21. He left Davie with a 27-match winning streak.

The 2004-05 War Eagles went 42-1 (the most wins ever) and finished second in the state duals, losing by two points at Cary. They buried Riverside twice. They routed Orange and East Gaston, which finished 1-2 in the 3-A state duals, respectively.

It was a magnificent year –  a year that will always be remembered for legendary challenge matches.