Davie claims Western regional wrestling title

Published 1:49 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

What hadn’t happened in a long time – for so long that the current War Eagles were toddlers or not even born yet – happened at Hough on Jan. 31.

Davie’s wrestling team bounced Hickory Ridge and Grimsley in the third and fourth rounds of the 4-A dual team playoffs and advanced to the state championship match for the first time in 16 years.

Even though Davie, the No. 1 seed in the Western Regional,  had to travel 49 miles to Cornelius, orange and black colors commanded most of the gym. What the Davie masses witnessed was absolutely fantastic – their well-oiled team blowing past both opponents to punch their ticket to the Feb. 3 state final in Greensboro.

“The crowd was amazing,” coach Josh Stanley said. “It felt like a home match. I’ve not seen some of those people in 10, 15, 20 years. It had the kids amped up and sometimes maybe too overzealous.”

Davie 34, HR 30

Don’t be fooled by the final score. In the quarterfinals against No. 4 Hickory Ridge, the War Eagles captured eight of the first 11 weight classes and clinched victory with three matches to spare.

In the opening match at 150, Elliott Gould ignited the charged-up crowd with a gritty 5-3 decision. It was 3-3 before Gould got a takedown with 23 seconds remaining in the third period. At 157, Jerred Alexander major decisioned, 11-2, and the rout was on. After Stanley forfeited at 165 to Colton Campbell, a junior who is 50-0, Maddox Creason bumped up to 175 and pinned in the first. Hunter Testa did the same thing, bumping up to 190 and sticking his opponent in the first two minutes.

“(Campbell) is going to be wrestling for a state title (at 165), so we shifted our lineup,” Stanley said.

When Brysen Godbey major decisioned at 215, the Davie lead was 23-6.

The Ragin’ Bulls cut into the margin at 285 and 106, but Aidan Szewczyk (10-7 decision at 113), Cayden Glass (19-5 major decision at 120) and Tiaj Thao (11-2 major at 126) put the margin out of reach at 34-12.

Even though Testa worked at 190 for the first time all year, the unbeaten senior hammered out his 22nd pin in 34 tries. Even though Szewczyk was wrestling for the first time in 27 days, he raised his record to 21-2.

After building the 34-12 lead, Davie forfeited at 132, 138 and 144 and rested up as Hough and Grimsley waged a down-to-the-wire battle on the other mat.

Davie 38, Grimsley 22

No. 3 Grimsley grabbed a quick 4-0 lead in the semifinals, but the red-hot Creason sparked a 21-0 run that set the stage for the Glass/Thao/Davis knockout punch.

Creason won a 7-3 decision with impressive vigor. Grimsley’s Germaine Brown is a 29-4 junior, but he couldn’t stay with a sophomore who has an 11-match winning streak with nine pins.

“That kid is ranked No. 4 in the state,” Stanley said. “I don’t even think Maddox knew that; they just have to believe in their preparation.”

At 175, Grimsley senior Jalen Ashe managed to take Testa to the third period. But with a 14-5 lead, Testa executed a nasty move, sweeping the legs and pinning Ashe in the blink of an eye.

“That kid’s job was just to survive,” Stanley said. “We knew he was going to shell up and Hunter was going to have to make something happen. It took him about 10 or 12 takedowns, but Hunter’s persistent and that kid was ready for the door by the end of it.”

At 190, Christian Boswell survived a hard-fought slugfest, winning 7-6 over a 42-12 senior. Boswell has flourished since a 10-7 start to his junior season, winning 14 of 17 and seven straight.

“Boz is believing in himself,” Stanley said. “Like Elliott, I feel like every match he’s improving. Boz let it fly, he attacked the guy’s legs and he battled through adversity. When we saw him pull that off, we knew we had a good shot at it.”

At 215, Godbey ran his winning streak to nine with a 13-7 decision. “He’s a (senior) leader for us and he’s on a tear,” Stanley said.

Grimsley’s heavyweight pushed Ryder Strickland into the third period, but the reliable junior tightened Davie’s grip with a late pin.

The Whirlies (25-4) began turning the tide at 106 and 113. Szewczyk is a freshman who was paired with 35-9 senior Zachary Swearingin. Szewczyk took a 3-2 lead with :30 left in the third, but Swearingin prevailed 4-3 in the final 10 seconds and pulled Grimsley within 21-13.

“Aidan was probably a little rusty and he was really sick after the first match, but he came back and fought it out for the team,” Stanley said.

The match’s signature moment came at 120. Glass faced nemesis Grant McCord, who was 40-1 after winning the state at 106 last year as a sophomore. Glass (31-2) didn’t just beat McCord, he pinned him in the second.

“That kid beat Cayden earlier this year, and it’s been his Achilles heel for a few matches and has been in Cayden’s head,” Stanley said. “But when the team is behind you, it makes you level up sometimes. It was an amazing performance by Cayden.”

Grimsley freshman Jacob McCord hung with Thao for six minutes, but the gifted Davie sophomore survived 7-6 in a struggle that featured late fireworks. After time expired, the refs got together to sort out the back-and-forth flurry (nine of the 13 points came in the third). Thao, heavily favored at 32-4, did enough to give Davie a 30-13 lead.

The Whirlies took a decision at 132, but their small glimmer of hope was dashed at 138 by Andy Davis, who emphatically nailed down the state-final berth with a technical fall.

The sophomore has been taking his game to greater heights every week, resulting in a 10-match winning streak and 32-3 record.

“Andy is the smoothest wrestler probably on our team,” Stanley said. Cayden is super fast and strong, and Testa is a technician with brute force, but Andy is the smoothest kid we have. He flows from one thing to another, and right as he starts breaking you, he will hit you in a head lever. Coach (Buddy) Lowery loves to see that; people don’t hit head levers anymore. I love it just to give a nod to Buddy. We have three or four guys who are hitting that hard, and I’ve had people tell me that Andy hits it like the old-school guys, and he transitions from that to punching in that half so fast that it brings back memories.”

The War Eagles (22-1) rattled off victories in eight of the first 12 matches and clinched at 35-16 with two to go. They advanced to the state final for the first time since 2008 and rejoiced amid overwhelming cheers from the stands.

“Nobody does it like Davie, the way they bring that fire,” Stanley said. “When the match was sealed, Bobby Strickland started yelling ‘War!’ and everybody else would go ‘Eagles!’ The amount of people that you had to hug to get out of that place to leave was incredible. The security was trying to usher our people out, but they wanted to stay and celebrate and talk. So it was just amazing.”

Notes: Despite having victory in hand, Stanley let Brett Foster go to work at 144. He won 9-4. Then Davie forfeited at 150. … In Davie’s last state-final appearance in 2008, it lost 40-27 to visiting Cary.