West Rowan wrestlers take another county championship
Published 11:45 pm Saturday, December 21, 2019
By David Shaw
LANDIS — Anyone who thinks this is the most wonderful time of the year must have been pulling for West Rowan’s wrestling team on Saturday.
Much to coach John Brown’s surprise, the Falcons won six of nine final-round matches and captured their third consecutive Rowan County championship.
“It makes the holidays even better — especially because coming in, we really didn’t know,” Brown said at South Rowan High School, where West totaled 192 team points and bested runners-up Salisbury (179), East Rowan (177), South Rowan (85.5) and Carson (61). “This one was up in the air. It really was anybody’s tournament. We came out on top, but I didn’t consider us the favorites.”
West senior Lane Adkins was named Most Outstanding Wrestler after pinning two opponents in the 145-pound weight class. He stopped East’s Ethan Mastro in 1:16 in the semifinals, then prevailed over Salisbury’s Michael Lowry — last year’s tournament most outstanding — in 2:59, in the final.
“I’ve come close, but I’ve never won this before,” smiled Adkins, owner of a 21-3 individual record this season. “I beat (Lowry) last year in a Thanksgiving tournament (7-1), but I knew this would be challenging. He’s just good and never stops working at it.”
Adkins trailed 4-2, in the second period, when his opportunity suddenly appeared. “I waited patiently for him to slip up on his running legs,” he explained. “He got high on me, but I was able to head him off and put him down.”
It was a measure of revenge for Adkins, a North Piedmont Conference champ who placed second in the county the past two years. “He definitely deserved MOW, because his weight class was one of the toughest,” Brown said. “He’s always been right there. And state tournament, he’s been blood round every year in regionals but never qualified. Heck, last year, he beat the No. 1 kid in regionals who was 44-1, but then lost in the consult (consolation) semis and didn’t make the states.”
Adkins and his teammates have soldiered on, despite long odds. “We’ve had solid teams,” he said. “They’ve all got good hearts and come out here and wrestle hard. They never give up, even when they’re battling for third (place). That’s what pushes us.”
West teammates Jacob Perry (106), Luke Harrison (132), Seth Simmerson (170), Baiden Suddarth (195) and Edwin Berrios (Hwt) also earned first-place ribbons. Perry, a year-round wrestler, earned a mistake-free 11-4 decision over East’s Luke Heglar in his only bout. Top-seeded Harrison needed only 48 seconds to reach the finals, where he defeated East’s Shawn Guimond in 2:39. Simmerson recorded two pins in less than two minutes using a Laverne & Shirley template — he did it his way.
“He’s kind of a funky wrestler. He wrestles a little different,” was Brown’s description. “He does some things that you don’t normally teach — and with most kids on my team, I tell them not to do that. But with him, he makes weird things work and he’s a county champion.”
Suddarth rode a couple of byes into the final round and pinned Carson’s Robert Barringer in 3:41, making him a three-time county champ and securing West’s title. “Baiden’s one of those kids who brighten your day,” said Brown. “He’s always smiling, always nice, always respectful — but he’s a hoss. When he comes out there, he’s going after you. He wrestles like a middle linebacker — he’ll come get you.”
Berrios deserves the Lost-and-Found award. An unbeaten senior, he hadn’t wrestled since middle school but made a concerted effort to drop weight and qualified as a heavyweight this season. He notched a semifinal fall against South’s Wyatt Foster, then pinned East’s Josh Samoa in 3:39 in the final for his 12th win.
“He was way over the weight class. I thought I’d never get Edwin to wrestle for me,” Brown said. “He’s lost about 50 pounds since the summer and is down to 280 right now. He’s turned into a smart wrestler, straight A’s, and undefeated.”
It capped an eventful day, one that saw the Falcons earn a championship plaque they hadn’t expected to win.
“The last two years we were the favorites,” Brown said. “But things can still happen and there was pressure on us. But this year, the pressure was off. We knew it would be close. We decided to just wrestle our best and see what happens.”
Salisbury claimed two weight-class champions and finished second. “I’m not happy,” admitted assistant Shane Miller, who subbed for head coach Tim Pittman. “We under-wrestled in a few places. We’re only 13-15 points out of first place. That’s what we were going for.”
Juniors Javon White (113) and Trey Wilhoit (152) were crowned champions. White earned a first-minute pin to finish off East’s Hunter Blackwelder in the final, making him a two-time winner. Wilhoit stopped West’s Adam Coughenhour in 5:59, good for six team points.
“Well, my bracket wasn’t full,” said White, who wrestled only once. “I would have liked to wrestle a little more. But I was pounding the head, took a shot when it was open and used a half to pin him. Last year it was the same thing, against another East Rowan kid.”
East had nine finalists, but went 4-5 in the championship round and finished a disappointing third.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” said coach Chase Burris. “We just didn’t capitalize. We kind of got stomped in the finals, didn’t get it done.”
Of the four winners, Nate Burrage at 126 was most celebratory. The top-seeded senior took byes into the final round, then pinned Salisbury’s Lloyd Hilton in 3:27 to win his third straight county title.
“(Hilton) was real strong on the bottom,” said Burrage, now 19-4. “So I had to transition well to be effective. In the end, I had his arm across his back and kind of stuck a half in there to put him away.”
Other East winners included unbeaten juniors Oren Bost (160) and Tayron Frost (182), as well as J.T. Teeter (220). Bost pinned West’s Nate Estrada in 28 seconds and improved to 16-0. Frost recorded a pin and a major decision — thumping West’s Nathan Winecoff, 11-1 in the final — for his 22nd victory. And Teeter (now 19-2) logged a pair of falls, leveling Salisbury’s Reed Fuggle (1:22) in the semis and South’s Andrew Watkins (5:08) to earn the blue ribbon.
South claimed two champions — sophomore Jacob Cox (120) and freshman Sam Kincaid (138). Cox pinned Geoffrey Hutchins of West in the semifinals in 1:19 and won by technical fall (16-1) over Salisbury’s Wanya Bembry in the final. Carson did not have a champion, but had one runner-up and three third-place finishers. North Rowan is not fielding a team this season.
Three participants — East’s Burrage, Salisbury’s Lowry and South’s Cox — were place-winners in last winter’s state championship meet.