RALEIGH — Wrestling matches between seemingly even teams hinge on the bouts that could go either way. The team that manages to pull out more wins in those ‘swing’ bouts usually walks away with the team victory.
That was certainly the case Wednesday when Holly Springs, ranked fourth in the News & Observer area rankings, took the mat against Sanderson, ranked third, during a tri-meet at Athens Drive High School.
Holly Springs coach Brandon Inge felt like half of the 14 weight classes could be won by either team. And he was prepared for a tight battle.
But when all was said and done, Inge’s guys had taken care of business and rolled to a 40-18 early season win.
“After scouting and setting up the lineup, I thought there were about seven toss-up [bouts],” Inge said. “And we won five of those. I did not expect that to happen. And I definitely didn’t expect the score to end up like it did. Sanderson has a great, well-coached team.”
Adding to Inge’s concern was illness that’s been a perpetual problem over the past couple of weeks.
“The flu has spread through this team,” he said. “We’re missing three regular starters. So I’m really proud of the guys. I’m proud of the guys who won, but also proud of the ones that lost. They fought hard, too. We only gave up one pin.”
The match started at 160 pounds, and through the first five weight classes, it looked to be the nail-biter the rankings had forecast. Travian Cooke and Austin Galati picked up decisions at 160 and 170 pounds to give the Golden Hawks an early 6-0 advantage, but the Spartans responded with three straight wins.
C.J. Grannen picked up Sanderson’s only pin of the night just 39 seconds into his bout, and Antwuan Elliot and Seabastian Murray followed with two decisions. The Spartans led 12-6 after 220 pounds.
After that, though, the momentum swung permanently in Holly Springs’ favor.
C.J. Cooper and Aaron Redus went back-to-back with pins to put the Hawks back in front. Sanderson’s Adam Derose battled for a hard-fought 9-5 decision over Hoa Tran at 113 pounds to keep the score close, but the next five bouts fell for Holly Springs.
Parker Ragsdale scored a major decision, 19-9, at 120 pounds, and Myles Jones made quick work of his opponent at 126 to put the Hawks out in front. The bout that followed was the most dramatic of the night, marking one of those crucial ‘toss-up’ matches Inge had talked about.
Control was tough to come by as both John Cox and Alonzo Adams battled through the first period. By the end of the second period, though, Sanderson’s Adams had managed to mount a 4-0 lead. The third and final period was much like the first until late when Cox scored four quick points to tie it up and force overtime. Overtime is sudden death – the first to score wins. Cox wasted no time in the extra frame, scoring a quick takedown and in the process thwarting any possible Spartans’ comebacks.
It was a seminal moment in the match for both Holly Springs and Cox, who began the season on the bench.
“John started this year on second string,” Inge said. “But now he’s getting his chance and he’s working hard. He’s a very hard worker and it showed tonight. He got down early, but you could tell late that his [opponent] got tired and John didn’t. He was big when he needed to. I’m proud of him. This will be a huge confidence boost for him.”
Javon Johnson and Daniel Richardson tacked on two more wins for the Hawks, and the Spartans’ Jonny Gomez closed the match with a 9-6 decision at 152 pounds long after the outcome of the team score had been decided.
Inge was satisfied with his team’s effort after the match, and saw a bright future once his lineup is whole again.
“Hopefully we’ll get all our guys back by mid-January,” he said. “We’re thin in the upper weight classes. We need to get healthy. We’ve still got a long ways to go, but we’re getting better. Tonight was a good night for us.”
The win was Holly Spring’s second of the evening. The Hawks defeated Athens Drive 62-12 in the opening match of the tri-meet.