Double Delight: War Eagle wrestlers win another title; Testa best at 175

Published 6:24 am Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Davie’s wrestling team made up for 17 years of 4A-title emptiness with an unprecedented season that will be relived forever.

The War Eagles won their first conference title since spring 2021, their first state duals title in 18 years, their first Midwest Regional title in six years and their first state individual title in 29 years.

The War Eagles have a storied tradition, but the 2023-24 Davie experience was unique, this being the first time they’ve done the double delight thing. They captured the state duals in 1994, the state individuals in 1995 and the state duals in 2006. But they watched history unfold at the Greensboro Coliseum from Feb. 15-17. Two weeks after defeating Laney for the state duals championship, they took the state individuals crown by outlasting Lumberton 100-96. Mooresville (86) was third in the 67-team field, followed by Laney (82) and Northwest Guilford (72.5).

What more? One Davie headhunter reached out and touched perfection. After going 82-4 the past two years but settling for third place, there was only one thing for senior Hunter Testa to be, and that was state champion at 175. He did it by completing a 43-0 masterpiece.

“This was a big personal goal, of course,” Testa said. “I’m super happy for my team as well. I’m really proud to be a part of this team.”

Last year Testa reached the semifinals with a 46-0 record, but the magic vanished and his dreams went up in smoke in the semis for the second year in a row. He exorcised those demons in legendary style.

“Things happen in your life for a reason,” Testa said. “You’re supposed to learn from them. I lost in the semis twice and learned each time.”

From Nov. 14 through Saturday night, he sliced all opponents to pieces. Last weekend was an all-out assault on ill-equipped enemies. In the first round, he pinned in the first period. In the quarterfinals, he romped to a 21-6 technical fall. After an 18-3 tech fall in the semifinals, the drama of an entire season narrowed to a small focus – the final match of Testa’s high school career.

“He was a fat kid (earlier in his career) – he wasn’t fat but that’s the feedback he got,” said Josh Stanley, who designed the twin titles blueprint in his first year as Davie’s coach. “He was always a pudgy kid when he started getting recruited, and they thought he was lazy because of his body type. He had a massive, massive chip on his shoulder and he bleeds it out every day.”

Around 4:45 Saturday evening, only Alexander Central senior Nate Dahlstrom stood between Testa and Davie immortality. Even though Dahlstrom was 50-3, the 175 title bout amounted to a four-minute, 13-second celebration. It was a 19-3 tech fall that made Testa the 13th different War Eagle wrestler to win the state.

“I tell myself before I go out: Be explosive and be fast,’” Testa said. “And I’m thankful I was able to do that. This has been a big deal to me. I’ve wanted it since I got in high school.”

Testa’s 43-0 run included 28 pins, six tech falls, five forfeits, two major decisions, one decision and one injury default.

“I’m super thankful,” he said. “I appreciate all my coaches, all my teammates, my family and friends. I thank God for all this.

“(The unbeaten record) looks good for the next goal. My next goal is to be a dominant wrestler in college, and this is a building block to get there.”

Testa became just the fifth War Eagle to achieve invincibility with a minimum of 30 matches. The others: Scotty Spry (35-0 in 1994), Neil Cornatzer (40-0 in 1995 and 39-0 in 1996), Patrick Lowery (38-0 in 2002) and Jack Jarvis (30-0 in 2021).

He reached the crowning achievement by working out eight days a week because he knows no other speed.

“He’s just a technician,” Stanley said. “He’s a student of it. He lives for it. There’s guys that are built for that, and that’s what he’s modeled his whole life for.”

Testa became just the fifth War Eagle wrestler to place among the top three three times. The others: Spry (first, first, first from 1993-95), Cornatzer (second, first, first from 1994-96), Lowery (third, third, first from 2000-02) and Michael Waters (second, first, first from 2009-11).

By carving out a 153-7 career record, including 91-1 as a junior/senior, Testa is among nine War Eagles with 150-plus career wins. He ranks third in career winning percentage, his .956 mark only trailing Spry’s .971 and Cornatzer’s .964.

“He’s the sweetest kid in the world,” Stanley said. “Nobody can say anything (negative) about him, and then he’s just a brutal monster on the mat.”


Seven Testa teammates helped Davie produce the storybook ending. Junior Cayden Glass made big noise before settling for second at 120.

Glass manhandled his first three opponents, twice pinning in the first period before pinning in the second in the semifinals. That tear pushed his winning streak to 14.

“Cayden was on a mission,” Stanley said. “He just plowed through. He knew we needed pins for the team race. He was leading most pins in the least amount of time. It was impressive.”

In the finals, Glass met Ragsdale senior Bradley Yokum (51-2). They had matched glares before, with each beating the other. In the regional semifinals the previous weekend, Glass pulled off a stirring comeback to knock off Yokum, who led 6-2 before faltering 7-6.

But this time Yokum took the upper hand early and never looked back in an 8-4 decision.

“(Glass, Yokum and Grimsley’s Grant McCord are all) right there and they’ve all beaten each other,” Stanley said. “(Yokum) is really good. Cayden beat him last week and he came back with a vengeance. Their coach had fire in that kid to win. (Yokum) is tough on top, he was able to ride us and we couldn’t get out from under him.”

Glass, who placed sixth last year at 126, still has a lot to savor. He went 39-3, surpassed 100 career wins in Greensboro and he’ll be primed for a thunderous senior season. His career mark is 102-31.

“It’ll lead to some good stuff in the offseason,” Stanley said. “He’s going to nationals and he’s going to go into that fiery. He’ll come into next year kind of like Testa did this year.”

Testa and Glass stayed in the winners’ brackets, but Tiaj Thao, Aidan Szewczyk, Andy Davis, Brett Foster, Elliott Gould and Brysen Godbey deserve a lot of credit for Davie’s ability to overcome Laney’s lead after day two. After Friday, Laney had 78 points to Davie’s 72.5 and Lumberton’s 69.

“It’s won on the back side,” Stanley said. “There’s a lot of points back there. A lot of guys do the semi-slide, where they’ll get all the way to the semis and then crash. It was a tight, tight race with three or four teams, but some of those other teams didn’t do what we did on the back.”

At 126, Thao pinned in the first two rounds. After losing a decision in the semifinals, he came up big with back-to-back decisions that gave resulted in third place and a season record of 41-5.   

“(Thao) wanted the finals bad, but the kid was prepared for him and had a good game plan against T’s style,” Stanley said. “He gut punched us, but T battled back.

“T got fifth last year and obviously every year you want to improve on that. We needed him to get third (for the team), and he went out and got it. It was amazing.”

In the consolations at 113, Szewczyk’s 2-0 overtime win was huge for Davie’s fate. He went 4-2, placed fifth and finished 29-6. For a freshman, this marked the beginning rather than the end.

“He lost a controversial one (in the quarterfinals),” Stanley said. “(The OT win) was a really gritty match. We knew (the opponent) was really good. There were calls that could have gone either way in that match, and we came out good in this one after losing some calls earlier in the tournament.”

In Davis’ fifth/sixth match against a guy from Laney, Davie was in a make-or-break situation. When Tyler Buonocore took a 4-0 lead, Davis was in a survival test that called for guts and desire. He pulled out a heart-stopping 10-8 decision in overtime. He placed fifth and posted a 41-6 record, a titanic rise from his 18-8 freshman year.

If Davis doesn’t steal that one from Buonocore, Davie might have settled for state runner-up like it did in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993 and 2009.

“Andy gutted out a massive win,” Stanley said. “He was banged up and he said: ‘I’m not myself (with knee issues).’ He’s got a limitless gas tank. He made a mistake and went down 4-0 against a Laney kid who is a gamer. Andy just chipped away and battled back, chipped away and battled back. We knew that match was everything. With us winning that, Laney could only get to 98 points.”

All eight state qualifiers helped the cause. Foster (132), Gould (150) and Godbey (215) contributed one win each. Foster went 39-9 as a junior. Gould went 30-11 as a sophomore.  And Godbey went 41-9 as a senior to cap a 129-40 career.

It’s the greatest season ever, but no 2023-24 Davie story would be complete without citing the fanatical following.

“It feels like the whole community has rallied behind us,” Stanley said. “The support from families is outrageous. I’ve coached wrestling for a long time – I’m 39 and this is my 13th year – and it was the coolest experience of my life for sure.”