Davie wrestling loaded with talent; girls putting team on the mat
Published 1:53 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023
By Brian Pitts
From 1981-82 through 2018-19, a span of 38 years, the Davie wrestling team averaged 2.7 losses per season. Davie joined the Central Piedmont Conference in 1985 and captured 28 regular-season championships in 36 tries from 1986 through spring 2021.
The past two years, though, the War Eagles were a shadow of what they used to be. They went 23-10 in 2021-22 and 17-9 last year. Both years they finished second in the CPC behind West Forsyth. (They’ve never experienced three straight years with a CPC title.)
But Davie should be significantly better in Josh Stanley’s first year at the helm. In fact, it’s not crazy to dream about a state championship.
The wrestling room is bursting with talent. It all starts with an all-star senior who has a career record of 110-7. Hunter Testa is one of 15 War Eagles who have reached 100 career wins before their senior year. He’s a three-time state qualifier. He’s a two-time bronze medalist in the state tournament. He’s coming off a 48-1 season. After dominating at 182 the past three years, Testa has dropped to 175.
“He is the leader of the team,” said Stanley, who replaced Perry Long as coach after leading Lake Norman’s program for four years. Long guided Davie for four years. “We’re really chasing something for him individually and for the team. He’s a two-time All-American. He’s chomping at the bit. He’s been training his butt off and he’s ready to make a statement this year.”
Davie has a known quantity at 215 in senior Brysen Godbey. He has a strong 88-31 career record, but a 38-11 mark as a junior left him unfulfilled. He missed qualifying for the state after making it as a 40-10 sophomore, and he redefined himself in the offseason.
“Last year he dropped some weight and I don’t feel like it suited him,” Stanley said. “But we’ve got him back up. He’s a full-time wrestler this year and he’s made a commitment to it. He’s put on some weight and he’s been lifting hard. He’s ready to make a run at 215.”
In 2021-22, Ryder Strickland went 16-15 as an undersized freshman heavyweight. He improved dramatically as a sophomore, jumping to 32-14. Now Stanley sees a potential star.
“Ryder’s main love is football,” Stanley said of the center on Davie’s offensive line. “Obviously we love that from our heavyweight. He’s been going to war (in the practice room). (Assistant coach) Caleb Spurlin and Ryder have been going at it. He’s going to be in shape this year more than ever because of the big bodies he’s got to scrap with.”
At 103, the starting job is between two freshmen – Stephen Jacobs and Jack Bost.
“Stephen is going to do well, but he’s a young kid, so it’s yet to be seen what he’s going to do,” Stanley said. “Jack might break in this year.”
There’s been plenty of buzz about Davie’s 113-pounder for several years. Freshman Aidan Szewczyk went 42-0 at South Davie in his middle school career, and he carries immense promise into his Davie debut.
“He’s tough,” Stanley said. “He started (wrestling) a lot younger than most kids. Yeah, he’s a stud.”
Stanley is drooling over Cayden Glass at 120. He’s a junior transfer from rival West Forsyth, but he has Davie roots.
“His dad, Carson Glass, wrestled for Davie back in the day,” he said. “Cayden was a Davie guy. He wrestled at North Davie under Timmy (Allen, the new West Forsyth coach who started his teaching/coaching career at North Davie). He’s a stud. He’s freakishly athletic. He’s crazy fast.”
Davie will get a big boost at 126 from sophomore transfer Tiaj Thao, who was good enough as a Lake Norman freshman to post a 36-13 record and finish fifth in the state at 113.
Stanley spoke glowingly of Luke Tehandon, a senior at 126/132. Senior Reid Nail is in the mix at those spots. Last year Tehandon went 18-9 at 113/120, and Nail went 30-16 at 120/126.
“Luke is at 126 or 132 or wherever we need him,” he said. “I wish I had 10 kids like Luke. He’s always going to work, he loves the team and he’ll do whatever we need for us to win a state title. I’m looking at Reid at 132.”
Sophomore Andy Davis, who went 18-8 as a freshman, is the probable starter at 138. “Andy can make (132), but I like him at 138,” Stanley said.
Junior Brett Foster is a wild card at 144. He didn’t wrestle last year, but he appears ready to hit his untapped potential. His father Brad was a Davie wrestling standout from 1987-90.
“Brett’s always been a freak athlete,” Stanley said. “We’ve got him back and he’s looking really good.”
Stanley has good options at 150 and 157 in sophomores Elliott Gould and Jamarius Pelote and freshman Javon Carter. Gould produced 22 wins as a freshman at 145, and Pelote picked up 20 victories as a freshman at 152.
“Elliott is another really tough athlete,” he said. “Javon is just a freak. I was so impressed with our team already, and then we got these football kids in and I’m like: ‘Who is this? Who is that?’”
Senior Jerred Alexander (33-17 at 170 as a junior) seems poised for a big year at 165.
“Jerred is a tough, tough kid,” Stanley said. “He spent a lot of time wrestling in the offseason before football season. He’s ready to make a run.”
The coach had plenty of praise for junior Christian Boswell (190) and Walker Matthews, a 220-pound freshman who will back up Godbey at 215 and Strickland at heavyweight. Boswell went 13-9 at 182/195 as a sophomore.
“Christian will probably be our 190,” he said. “I love that kid. He’s a worker. He’s been Testa’s partner for the last six months. He’s one of those that does not say a lot. He puts his head down and works. That’s one of our favorite kinds.
“I love (Matthews). I’ve only been exposed to him the last two or three days (because of football), but the first day he was being a great partner for Godbey. He threw up the first day, but he would not back out of it. He was right back in grinding it out. He doesn’t have a crazy amount of height on him for that weight, but he can move; he’s athletic.”
Add it all up and Stanley, who led Lake Norman to runner-up in the state 4-A duals in 2022, believes Davie’s ceiling is high.
“We could literally fill two teams,” he said. “We have a bunch of guys that can break into the lineup everywhere. We will do a lot of shuffling around.”
There’s a new era in 2023-24: Davie girls wrestling. Some girls wrestled last year against females from other teams, but it was all individual stuff. This year Davie girls will compete as a dual team.
There are 12 weight classes. Participation has been so strong that Davie will fill most every weight class.
“A lot of them have never been exposed to wrestling at all,” Stanley said. “We’re going to be giving up three or four weights (with forfeits), but we have some pretty scrappy girls. At Lake Norman, we had a first-year girl that got second in the state. They can come out of nowhere and be an athlete and have an opportunity to compete pretty early.”
When the boys face a CPC opponent, the girls will wrestle first, followed by the varsity boys. When the boys compete in weekend tournaments, the girls will do the same at the same site.
“A lot of the individual tournaments that we go to will have varsity boys, varsity girls and JV boys,” Stanley said. “That makes it a little bit easier so we don’t have to split staff and go to two different places.
“I’m making sure they’re having fun. I can’t expect too much from them when they don’t know technique yet. The girls are easier to coach. They don’t have egos and they’re not afraid to get beat up sometimes. The girls are fun. I really enjoy it.”