KENLY — The numbers just weren’t there for the North Johnston wrestling team as it took on 2A Northern Carolina Conference opponent Franklinton Tuesday night.
Forced to surrender18 points on three consecutive forfeits due to not having wrestlers available in three weight classes, the Panthers fell to the Red Rams 44-33.
The final five matches of the night were all decided by forfeit with North Johnston reaping the rewards in two such instances but giving away 18 combined points in the 170, 182 and 195 weight divisions.
“The big thing is the weight classes,” North Johnston coach Jonathan Hartley said. “If we could fill those and not give up three forfeits in a row, that would be huge.”
The matches that were held were hard-fought battles and after Eric Joyner earned his 28th victory of the year in pinning the Red Rams’ Ruben Ramirez, the Panthers held a 21-17 advantage.
Franklinton’s Stephen Fritz outlasted the Panthers’ Daniel Reyes at 152, however, for three pivotal points for the visitors and his teammate Justin Thomas pinned North Johnston’s Michael Hardison at 160 to effectively finish the competitive night on the mat.
North Johnston (6-17, 0-3 NCC) received a pair of solid performances in the lower weight classes to start off the dual meet on the right foot.
Despite a couple reversals that went against him, the Panthers’ Jacob Creech earned a hard fought 14-9 victory over Franklinton’s Reid Wheeler at 106.
The Panthers’ River Adams put forth a similar effort at 120.
Adams, despite having his leg injured during the match against Franklinton’s Zak Kelly, persevered and earned a pin and six points for the Panthers.
“He fought hard even with a hurt leg,” Hartley said of Adams. “He wrestled through it and he ended up pinning the guy. I’m proud of him because he wrestled hard in that one.”
Senior captains Dyllan Creech and Hunter Stephenson as well as heavyweight Ethan Williams were the beneficiaries of forfeit wins.
Franklinton’s Darius Scott (113), Alex Lowery (126) and Greg Purvine (138) all were victorious for the Red Rams while Dominick Cotton, Everett Eaton and Kaylaub Holman earned six points a piece thanks to the North Johnston forfeits.
Outside of seniors Creech and Stephenson as well as junior Eric Joyner, Hartley is concerned mostly with his younger grapplers continuing to improve for the Panthers as North Johnston heads towards the end of its regular season.
“Show up and get better,” said Hartley on what he wants from his team in the next few weeks. “The freshmen, if they could just hang in there and not get discouraged, that would be good.”