SPENCER — It is once again time to start taking North Rowan’s wrestling team seriously.
The unbeaten Cavaliers have received clearance from the tower and are next in line for takeoff after shredding visiting Trinity 49-24 Wednesday night.
“They’re a really good team,” 160-pound senior Thomas Tucker said after North (8-0) blindsided the defending 2A state champion. “But we practiced hard all week and told ourselves we were going to win this match.”
North, which placed second in last winter’s 1A state tournament, knew this assignment would be no easy ‘A’. But it wrestled with both bark and bite — recording five pins, a major decision and winning two other bouts by forfeit.
“We were hoping for a seven-seven split,” coach Tim Pittman said after the Cavs won 10 of 14 bouts. “So we’re excited. Any time you can beat a team of Trinity’s calibre like that, that says something about your progam.”
Now, consider that North, which previously outpointed Davie County, Mooresville and defending 4A state titlist Pinecrest, prevailed without three returning state placewinners — Damon Ellis (120), Brandon Lemmon (145) and defending state heavyweight champ Will Robertson.
Losing coach Kyle Spencer made a quick getaway after Trinity suffered its first loss in nine matches. Each of his three unbeaten wrestlers won by a fall, but some mid-match lineup shuffling failed to pan out for the guests.
“I think we just went out there and executed,” North junior Brandon Rabon said after his 46-second pin in the 182-pound bout clinched the Cavs’ victory. “We made a statement. We’re here to wrestle and we’re here to win.”
North got off to a quick start, winning five of the first six fights to open a 21-6 lead. Nicholas Hicks (106) recorded an eight-second pin and Simon Connelly (113) earned a 5-2 decision. After a Trinity forfeit at 120, junior Darrell Taylor (126) rallied in the third period for a 7-5 win. Then sophomore Jaleel Hitchins (132) used a late reversal to prevail 4-3. “Those guys all came up big,” Pittman said.
The matched tilted in Trinity’s favor when it won the next three matches by pin and took a 24-21 lead. Included was unbeaten 145-pounder Alex Guevara’s win over Matt Moore in 2:41. Guevara (12-0) is a defending state champion.
Tucker halted North’s slide when he fought through a left temple injury and gained a 17-6 major decision over A.J. Patron. Tucker built a 12-4 third period lead when a medical team treated him with a minute remaining in his match.
“I couldn’t stand up,” he later reported. “But I knew I had to. It was the longest minute of my life.”
Braxton Rabon (170) posted a third-period pin to put North ahead 31-24 before Brandon Rabon — his twin brother — flattened Austin Bowman in less than a minute. Trae Clark (195) notched the Cavs’ third sub-one-minute pin of the night before Trinity forfeited at 220 and fled the scene.
“We’re pretty pumped up,” Pittman said. “But it’s a long way to February. We’ve won a lot early the past two years and still came up a little short. So we’ve got to stay focused.”
Just the same, this was the kind of performance that has Cavs fans thinking state title.
“As of right now,” Tucker said shortly before taking a post-match ride to the hospital, “we’re the best team out there. I think we get it this year.”
NOTES: Next up for North is Saturday’s Rowan County Tournament at Carson. The Cavs are two-time defending champions and logical favorites. “A lot of people are saying that,” Pittman said cautiously. ... Wrestling starts at 9 a.m. with the finals expected to begin around 3 p.m.