SPENCER — It was during the early part of the season and the wrestling teams of North Rowan and West Wilkes were involved in the King of the Mat tournament.
North coach Tim Pittman remembers talking to West Wilkes coach Brian Brown.
“Coach Brown was like, ‘This year is going to be interesting,’ ” Pittman said.
North Rowan (27-2) and West Wilkes (16-1) will see how interesting tonight at 6 p.m. when the two best wrestling programs in 1A will battle for the dual-team state championship in Millers Creek.
It will be the Cavaliers vs. tradition. The Blackhawks have won three straight state championships and this will be their fifth straight appearance in the last match of the year.
How have they done it?“It’s just tradition,” Pittman explained. “They’ve got a whale of a youth program.”
The two have had quite a rivalry since Pittman took over at North three years ago. In 2011, the two met for the state title with West Wilkes winning.
Last year, West won again while North was upset in the second round.
Pittman said the Cavaliers haven’t forgotten losing in the title match two seasons ago.
“That was the first year we were here,” he said. “It was new to everybody and we weren’t expected to win anything. To be honest with you, everybody in the program was just happy to be there.
“But those sophomores are seniors now.”
North will be led by 285-pound Will Robertson (33-1), along with 113-pounder Marc Gonzalez, both defending state individual champs. Darrell Taylor (126) and Damon Ellis (120) are closing in on 30 wins.
Robertson, Xavier Robinson (195) and Cecil McCauley (220) all pinned their foes in under a minute in a 55-18 shellacking of Rosewood on Thursday in the East Regional final. Robertson needed all of 13 seconds.
Simon Connolly is a talented veteran at 106 who is coming off a pin. Brandon Lemmon, Brandon Rabon and Trae Clark were among the Cavalier winners Thursday.
It was an impressive performance.
“Two years ago, we had one or two holes in the lineup,” Pittman said. “This year, we’re solid up and down.”
So much so that North, not West Wilkes, is ranked No. 1 in the state. Pittman enjoys the ranking but he knows how tough the Blackhawks are. While the Cavaliers were routing Rosewood, West Wilkes was taking care of Robbinsville 48-21. Ben Pierce at 220 got the momentum-swinging win. Elthen Sheets, Casey Willis (120) and Justin St. Germain (138) are just a few of the quality wrestlers produced by Brown.
“You think of 1A and a lot of people don’t give ’em credit,” Pittman said. “West Wilkes wrestles a schedule comparable to anyone.”
The Blackhawks add to that strength of schedule tonight against North Rowan. And Pittman hasn’t forgotten the atmosphere from two season ago, either.
“It’s a hostile environment,” he smiled. “Their student body will be there. It’s hard to beat tradition.”
Is this the year it happens?“They’ve got a little different mindset now,” Pittman said of his Cavaliers. “They know they can win it.”