RALEIGH — Correspondent
Wednesday night’s Cap Eight wrestling battle between Millbrook and Sanderson may have been a regular conference meet, but there was a championship-level energy in the room.
The two rivals gave their fans plenty to cheer for, but in the end, Millbrook emerged with a 34-33 victory.
Sanderson had a 33-31 lead heading into the final match, which pitted Millbrook freshman Hunter McClelland against Sanderson’s Sebastian Murray. McClelland won the 220-pound bout by a 9-4 decision to give the Wildcats the win.
“There’s a lot of pressure to end a big rivalry match like this, but he’s a good wrestler," said Millbrook coach Scott Saby. “He just came out and did what he does.”
Sanderson coach Jeremy Barefoot also tipped his hat to McClelland for his performance.
“It was two kids battling,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it didn’t go our way but it seemed like a really exciting way to finish the match.”
McClelland was one of seven individual winners for Millbrook (17-3, 3-0).
Vincent Ngwu (285) won by pin over Eddy Castillo, Nick Norton (120) pinned Miguel Royal and Brett Burton (138) pinned David Losada. Millbrook’s Nigel Griffin defeated Ryan Rodriguez by tech fall at 152 pounds, and Devonte Smith (160) and Chris Williams (170) won by major decision over Ryan Franz and Matthew Norby, respectively .
Leading the way for Sanderson (11-2) was Jonny Gomez, who picked up his 102nd career win by pinning Kelvin Ross. Other Sanderson winners included Adam Alhorani by decision over Crayton Saby (106), Adam DeRose by major decision over Lee Patton (113), Pete Maierhofer by pin over Kenyon Simmons (120), Alonzo Adams by pin over Angelo O’Briant (132), CJ Grannan by decision over Aaron Rehburg (182) and Antwuan Elliot by pin over Jonathan Woodbury (195).
Barefoot said he sensed a lack of intensity in his Sanderson team throughout the match.
“To be honest, Millbrook wanted it more than we did tonight,” he said. “They came out hungrier than we did.”
Sanderson lost one point midway through the match as Ryan Rodriguez was penalized for pulling his straps excessively. Barefoot said it was a costly mistake, but didn’t think it ultimately was the deciding factor.
“I’ve seen a thousand of my kids do that a thousand times and not get called for it,” Barefoot said. “A lot went wrong tonight. That was one thing that went wrong but several other things went wrong as well.”
The dual was a matchup of two rivals that have combined to win the last three Cap Eight championships, and the crowd responded accordingly. Saby said he was pleased with the way his team won in an intimidating environment.
“This is a very good atmosphere to wrestle in," Saby said. “We talked to our team and told them the Sanderson crowd is very vocal and that’s exciting and they’re going to have to be focused and not get too excited about it.”