Underdog Ellis wrestlers take South to the wire

Published 4:13 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

On Jan. 10, South Davie’s wrestling team toasted Ellis to the tune of 63-35. Was Ellis an improved squad heading into the Jan. 30 rematch at South? The answer was an emphatic “Yes.”

The Tigers beat Ellis a second time, but they had to fight for this one, a 54-48 decision that wasn’t determined until the second-to-last weight class.

South won 10 weight classes, Ellis eight. Ellis offset three forfeits by piling up seven pins, two more than South had.

“These kids didn’t believe (at the beginning of the season),” first-year Ellis coach Charles Compton said. “They had their heads down after the West Rowan and (Erwin) matches (on Nov. 29). It takes time. It told them all year: ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard, look how far you came.’ You’re as good as your practice partner. So when your practice partner gets better and you get mat time, you get better. They show heart and dedication and come to practice every day. They don’t complain. They’re eager to learn and it makes my job so much easier.”

It was a back-and-forth battle throughout, with five lead changes and four ties.

In the first four weight classes, South’s Anthony Arbiaza pinned at 76, Ellis’ Austin Eggers pinned at 85, South’s Zeb Stewart got a forfeit at 92 and Ellis’ Jack Bost pinned at 98.

In the Bost-Leighton Reavis match, there were 11 points in the first period.

“Bost is pretty tough,” South coach Russell Hilton said. “He beat Leighton twice, but both matches have been close.”

At 108, South’s Austin Samuels shook off a 5-1 deficit and picked up a big pin in the second period.

“Austin lost to Daniel (Hennessey) the first time,” Hilton said. “Daniel is pretty tough.”

Ellis surged to a 24-18 lead behind pins from Jacob Steelman and Tony Velasco at 113 and 120, respectively. Then it was 33-24 in South’s favor after Aidan Szewczyk’s pin at 126, Laz Smith’s decision at 132 and Xander Proctor’s 18-second pin at 138.

“If you don’t get pinned in a middle school match, then that is an outstanding match,” Compton said of Hoots’ hard-fought loss at 132. “The kids are learning and doing stuff right. It was a phenomenal match. Carter didn’t win, but I was super proud of that match because it was a battle.”

Allen Moxley and Ayden Chilton produced pins for Ellis, lifting the Jaguars to a 36-33 lead.

“Chilton is pretty tough,” Hilton said of Ellis’ 152-pounder. “He was wrestling a weight class up. He weighed in at 142.”

After South’s Noe Guzman received a forfeit at 160, Elijah Chaffin got a pin at 170 to give Ellis a 42-39 lead. Two unbeatens, Chaffin and Szewczyk, continued their dominant runs. In fact, Szewczyk has never lost while wearing a South uniform.

“Elijah just goes out there and tries to get off the mat as quick as possible,” Hilton said.

“He’s an all-around wrestler,” Compton said. “He’s just a little more advanced than your typical middle schooler. But you’ve got to put in the time and Elijah has done that.”

South took the lead for keeps when Brandon Pastor got a forfeit at 182. A crucial match was held at 197, where South’s David Hicks decisioned Brodie Newman to give the Tigers a 48-42 lead.

“(Hicks) likes to make it interesting,” Hilton said. “He likes to give me a heart attack sometimes. He gets in all these crazy positions.”

Newman was impressive in defeat.

“(Hicks) pinned my kid at 197 in 15 or 20 seconds last time,” Compton said. “Brodie is only a sixth grader, so he’s learned a lot and he almost came away with a victory.”

The clincher for South was Bryan Tapia, who pinned at 220 to extend the margin to 54-42. The match ended with Ellis’ Luis Salas receiving a forfeit at heavyweight.

“If (Tapia) loses, we lose the match, so he was pumped up,” Hilton said. “He’s a first-year eighth grader, but he’s getting better. He’s more confident on his feet now. He saw Marcus (Fortune) throwing everybody around (earlier in the season before he moved to Elkin), and now he’s starting to throw people.”

Notes: Ellis had to forfeit at 160 because unbeaten Finnly Sink was out with a foot injury. “He’ll be back next year,” Compton said of the seventh grader. “Most of my kids are sixth and seventh graders.” … The Tigers, who hammered Thomasville 96-12 on the same day as the Ellis match, finished 10-4 as a dual team. … This was the first match in 18 days for the Jaguars, who went 3-6.