CHINA GROVE — North Rowan’s wrestling team left little room for question in Saturday’s Rowan County Wrestling Tournament.
The Cavaliers totaled 181 team points, crowned six weight class champions and easily captured their third consectutive title at Carson High School.
“None of them are ever easy,” coach Tim Pittman said after North outdistanced runnerup East Rowan (124). “But it shows the boys are buying in to the program. They expect to win week-in and week-out.”
North is unbeaten in eight dual meets this season and currently ranked No. 1 in the state 1A poll. Yesterday’s triumph served as another challenge met on the way to February.
“I give all the credit to the coaching staff,” 285-pound champ Will Robertson said, referencing the work of Pittman and North assistant Travis Lindsay. “We’ve always had the athletes. We just didn’t have the coaching to pull it altogether.”
Robertson (8-0) made his first appearance since suffering a toe injury two weeks ago and snagged his second county championship. He won two matches — including a final-round pin in 3:33 against Salisbury’s Parker McKeithan. “He’s a big ole boy, but I think I have the experience on him,” Robertson said.
Other North champs included Marc Gonzalez at 113 pounds, Daymon Ellis (120), Jaleel Hitchins (132), Brandon Lemmon (145) and Brandon Rabon (182). Both Hitchins, a sophomore, and Rabon, a junior, won exciting final-round matches in overtime. Ellis avenged an early-season loss to East’s Jason Deutsch, recording a pin in 4:54 to become a two-time champ.
“I lost to him 8-7 when I did an illegal slam and got penalized a point,” Ellis said. “This time I just kept my head, thought about what moves I wanted to do and executed them. You just have to stay calm.”
That was also a key for Lemmon — a junior who has had nothing but success in the tournament. He pinned West’s Walt Waggoner in 5:15 to secure his third individual title.
“That’s nice, but I’m a lot more proud of what the team has done,” he said afterward. “Whether we win or lose, we do everything together.”
Lemmon was locked in a tight match when he used a move called “The Guilotine” to put Waggoner, a defending county champ, on his back. “It actually works their body to where they basically give up,” he explained.
Pittman is cool with all of it. “Every year we try to put eight in the finals,” he said. “Today we had 10 and were able to capitalize. We just wanted to keep progressing so we can make that run at the end of the year.”
East coach Barry Justus was pleased after the Mustangs finished second and claimed three champions — junior Wyatt Blume (138), freshman Daniel Muncy (152) and sophomore Shiheem Saunders (170).
“The 13 guys we stepped out on the mat with are very young,” Justus said. “I told the kids that nobody’s going to expect anything out of us. We ended up putting four in the finals.”
Blume wrestled well and took a 13-6 final-round decision from Salisbury’s Raylon Coleman. Muncy became ER’s first freshman county champ since Aaron Plyler in 2005 when he pinned South’s Abel Betancourt in 3:27. And Saunders pinned Carson’s Brandon Sloop in the semifinals and West’s Wood Poteat in the final.
First-year coach Joe Pinyan and Salisbury (108) placed third in the team standings, edging West (100), South (86.5) and Carson (61). Holden Hughley (170) and J.C. Burton (195) won championship ribbons. Burton, who recorded three pins, was later named the tourney’s outstanding wrestler.
“That was a surprise,” the sophomore said after squaring his season record at 4-4. “At first it didn’t register. Then a group of friends told me to go up and get the award.”
Burton defeated East’s Caleb Johnson in 46 seconds and West’s Jacob Tomlin in 2:29 to reach the final. Then he stopped North’s Matt Tucker in 1:01 to cap a dominating performance.
West sent four grapplers to the finals but claimed no champions. South had a pair, sophomore Logan Dunham (106) and junior Tyler Hall (126). Dunham, unbeated in 10 matches and ranked first statewide by Retrorankings.com, celebrated his 16th birthday by outscoring North’s Simon Connelly 10-6 in a hard-fought final. “He just rode me for three periods,” Dunham said. “I took him down, cut him, stood him up, took him down again. You can’t underestimate anybody.”
Carson’s lone medalist was sophomore Alex Lyles (220), who pinned North’s Cecil McCauley Jr. in 2:38 to win his second county title.
Longtime South coach Wayne Freeman had knee surgery on Friday and missed the tournament.