GREENSBORO — North Rowan coach Tim Pittman shook hands, exchanged smiles and kissed babies late Saturday night in the Greensboro Coliseum.
Pittman’s not a politician but could have been crowned the president of Rowan County Wrestling after the Cavaliers captured the state 1A championship at the state individual tournament.
“It’s just been a great day for Rowan County wrestling,” Pittman said. “It’s not just a state title for North Rowan, it’s a state title for Rowan County.”
The Cavs, who entered the day in third place in the team scores, won three classes and had nine qualifiers to end up with 88.5 points, three ahead of West Wilkes. Will Robertson (285 pounds) and Marc Gonzalez (113) won for the second straight year and Damon Ellis (120) capped his prep career with a win.
“I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Ellis said. “Ever since I came out here my sophomore year, this has been the goal.”
Robertson (41-3) was pinned by West Wilkes’ Eithen Sheets two weeks ago in the dual team championship and redeemed himself. After getting revenge on Sheets in the quarterfinal, he stood on the podium with a busted lip that defined his hard-earned win against Ayden-Grifton’s Justin Brown, a sophomore who Robertson lost to last week in the regionals.
“He was right there with me the whole time,” said Robertson after a 9-5 decision. “The first time, I threw him and stuck him. I kind of had to throw something different at him this time.”
Robertson and the rest of the Cavs noted the addition of former assistant Derrick Green, who was on hand after flying in from San Antonio. Pittman texted Green last week, requesting his help to prepare the Cavs mentally.
“I said, ‘I need you in Salisbury this week,’ ” Pittman said to Green. “We kind of lost focus a few weeks back. He personally worked one-on-one with Will and some other guys. It turned our whole team around when he came into the room.”
Ellis pinned his opponent, Ayden’s Brandon Armstrong, in the regional, but found himself in a tight bout. Ellis led 3-2 entering the third and got a reversal for some cushion. Ellis (41-3) ended up winning 7-5 on his third trip to Greensboro.
“I pinned him at regionals but I knew this was a whole different category,” Ellis said. “I just tried to tilt him. It was just going out there and wrestling my match.”
Gonzalez, the only wrestler in county history to win a state title as a freshman, wrestled in the 113-pound class Saturday after winning the 106-pound title in 2012. He hung on against Chatham Central’s James Dagget 4-2 after beating him in the regional last week. Gonzalez (43-4) was called for stalling
“He kept stalling and I kept thinking to dominate,” Gonzalez said. “Once I got the lead I said ‘I ain’t giving this up.’ ”
The Cavs got third-place finishes from Brandon Lemmon at 145 pounds and Brandon Rabon (170). Simon Connolly, Cecil McCauley, Jaleel Hitchins and Darrell Taylor also wrestled in the tournament.
“We had two defending state champs and they were determined to defend their title,” Pittman said. “It was a great showing.”
Carson’s Alex Lyles pinned St. Stephens’ Andrew Christopher at 5:25 to cap a 32-7 year with the Cougars’ first state champion. Lyles, a sophomore, got a stand-up and a takedown to secure a 15-10 lead after two periods and led 18-12 when he ended it. Lyles worked around a pair of injury timeouts when Christopher received assistance.
“I watched him all through the day yesterday,” Lyles said. “Me and the coaches decided if he comes up top, take your shots. They were there anytime I wanted it.”
East Rowan’s Jason Deutsch placed second to Central Cabarrus’ Heath Gleaton in an 11-4 decision. It was Gleaton’s fourth win of the season against Deutsch, who finished fifth in the state last year.
“I knew he was going to come at me strong,” Deutsch said. “I felt like I had some shots there that I should have taken. If I had been more aggressive on the attack I would have come out better points-wise.”
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