Trio wins regional wrestling titles

Published 1:43 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

What Davie senior wrestler Hunter Testa is doing match after match after match is wildly unusual.

He enters the final weekend of the season with 150 wins, tying for eighth on the career list despite having one abbreviated season because of the pandemic. With a 150-7 record, his .955 winning percentage ranks third behind Scotty Spry’s .971 (101-3 record) and Neil Cornatzer’s .964 (106-4). Only four War Eagles have placed in the top three of the state three times, and Testa could become the fifth this weekend in the state tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum. Spry did it from 1993-95 while winning the state three times. Cornatzer did it from 1994-96 (second, first, first), Patrick Lowery from 2000-02 (third, third, first) and Michael Waters from 2009-11 (second, first, first).

In the 4-A Midwest Regional at Ragsdale on Feb. 9-10, Testa’s performance at 175 was reminiscent of how he’s routinely steamrolled opponents. He went pin, pin, pin, technical fall to push his season record to 40-0, qualify for the state meet for the fourth time and claim the regional title for the third time. Now he’s aiming for the crowning achievement – an individual state championship.

“He gets ramped up and he’s chomping at the bit kind of like a racehorse,” coach Josh Stanley said. “You’re trying to reel him back and keep him calm until they blow the whistle. It’s just a countdown for him. Nothing really matters ultimately until he wins four more matches.”

With the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to Greensboro, the War Eagles qualified eight of their 14 entries and captured the 26-team regional title.

Three guys took first place, including junior Cayden Glass, who is on a mission at 120. After pinning his first two opponents, he pulled off massive wins in the semifinals and finals. In the semis, he overrode a 6-2 deficit and survived 7-6 over Ragsdale senior Bradley Yokum (43-2). In the finals, Glass was electric in an 8-4 decision over Grimsley junior Grant McCord, a defending state champ at 41-3. Glass, who qualified for the state for the second time, is 36-2 with an 11-match winning streak.

“Cayden was just clutch,” Stanley said. “He had two big matches and had to come from behind. (Yokum) has beaten him the last two or three times. Cayden was down by four late in the match and he hit a gator roll for a five-point move. (Yokum) was a state placer last year.”

Tiaj Thao was the gold medalist at 126. He majored, pinned, dodged a bullet in the semifinals and decisioned to earn his second state berth. The sophomore is 37-4 with 11 straight wins.

“T has a knack for controlling tight matches,” Stanley said. “In the semifinals, that guy got some back points on T and he had to find a way to get off bottom. He did a good job of surviving and found a way to beat him.”

At 113, Aidan Szewczyk (25-4) reached the finals with two pins and a decision. In the finals, he met 44-0 senior Trevor Freeman, who destroys almost everyone. But the Davie freshman gave a valiant effort in 6-2 defeat and took the silver medal.

“Trevor is a stud, a defending state champ,” Stanley said. “Aidan wrestled him really close. Trevor is just a tank. For Aidan to stay in that as a freshman was a huge confidence booster. It was 4-2 up until late.”

Junior Brett Foster (4-1 at 132), sophomore Andy Davis (4-1 at 138), sophomore Elliott Gould (4-1 at 150) and senior Brysen Godbey (4-1 at 215) advanced to the state by finishing third.

Foster rolled up a pin, a major and a tech fall while wrestling 132 for the first time all season; his previous 40 matches had been at 144 and 150. He will carry a 38-7 record to Greensboro.

“If Brett does not wrestle 144 in the state duals, (Laney) could’ve shifted three guys up and we don’t win the state,” Stanley said. “So Brett getting pinned still contributed to us winning the state. It’s really hard for a young man to understand that when he’s really a 132-pounder.”

Davis sported a 13-match winning streak before dropping a decision in the semifinals. He responded with a pin and tech fall to bump his record to 37-4. Gould improved to 29-9. Godbey (40-7) was fun to watch as he pounded out two pins and two majors.

“Andy can wrestle with anybody,” Stanley said. “As a sophomore, he can win the state.”

On four occasions, Davie survived the blood round, or consolation semifinals. Unfortunately, four War Eagles were eliminated in the blood round.

The difference between jubilation and heartbreak was razor thin for junior heavyweight Ryder Strickland, who went 3-2 with a pair of one-point losses. In the quarterfinals, he lost 4-3. In the blood round, he went from down 7-3 to up 8-7. But then his opponent caught lightning in a bottle in the dying seconds and won 9-8. Strickland finished 34-8.

“Ryder was down by four,” Stanley said. “He hits the guy with a five-point move with 10 seconds to go, but the kid reverses us (at the end). Ryder could have been wrestling for a state title (this) weekend; it was just a really tough region.”

Jerred Alexander went 3-2 at 157 and finished his senior year 24-18. Maddox Creason, one of the stories of the year, went 2-2 at 165 and finished 23-9 as a sophomore.

“Maddox had an amazing season,” Stanley said.

Through the state duals, senior Luke Tehandon was 14-6 at 120 and did not see the mat in the state duals. In the regional, he bumped all the way up to 144. Lo and behold, he made a Cinderella run to the semifinals and his career ended in the blood round.

“Luke was all-conference but was behind Cayden all year,” Stanley said. “He had the best mentality and he supported the team. He came up to me in the coaches office and said: ‘Why don’t I go to 144.’ I said: ‘How much do you weigh?’ He said: ‘127.’ So he had to gain seven pounds. He was sleeping off four pounds a night. He had to drink a lot of water.

“It was incredible. He made the semifinals. In the blood round, it was a war. It was one of those, if I’m going to shed a tear on a match, that was it. He put his heart on the line, he emptied the tank on a huge kid. He came up short, but it was amazing to watch.”

Christian Boswell went 1-2 at 190. He went 26-12 as a junior and his overtime win in the state dual finals will be talked about for a long, long time.

“Bos lives in Davie folklore,” Stanley said. “He can do no wrong. After the state duals, that kid will always be remembered for that.”

Stephen Jacobs’ season ended in hard-luck fashion. Although he went 0-2 at Ragsdale and forfeited his second match because of a shoulder injury, his 21-10 freshman record will be a nice springboard into 2024-25.

Notes: Davie rolled up 197 points to second-place Hickory Ridge’s 145.5 and Grimsley’s 128. … One week after capturing their first state duals championship in 18 years, the War Eagles picked up their first regional title in six years (2018). Their eight state qualifiers are the most in five years; they sent eight in 2019. … The War Eagles could do something unprecedented this weekend. They’ve never won two state titles in one season. They claimed the state individual crown in 1995 after losing 33-31 to Riverside in the state dual final. “We’re in a good spot,” Stanley said. “Laney got seven in. I don’t know that anybody got more than eight.”