FUQUAY-VARINA — Holly Springs left little doubt Thursday night as to who was the better wrestling team. The Golden Hawks, ranked second again this week in the News & Observer Triangle Top 15, rolled through Fuquay-Varina with a 54-12 win to remain second in the Tri-9 Conference standings, trailing only top-ranked Cary.
But despite the gap in the final score, Holly Springs coach Brandon Inge was impressed with a young, improving Bengals squad.
“[Fuquay is] tremendously better than they were when we saw them in November,” Inge said. “The difference between us and them right now is experience. We have a lot of it, and they’re very young and inexperienced. But they’re noticeably better than they’ve been in the past. They’re becoming a tough team.”
Still, the Hawks were decisive in their victory.
Austin Galati got things going with a first period pin at 170 pounds, and Cole Reinemund followed with a 6-0 decision at 182. C.J. Toogood made it three straight for Holly Springs when he scored a pin in the third period at 195 pounds. C.J. Cooper accepted a forfeit at 220, and the Hawks were off to a commanding 21-0 start.
Grayson Booker put Fuquay on the scoreboard with a forfeit victory at heavyweight, but when the little guys started, Aaron Redus grabbed those six points right back for Holly Springs with a pin just one minute and 25 seconds into his 106-pound bout.
The 113-pound bout was the most competitive of the evening. The Hawks’ Jacob Salzer took a 3-0 lead into the third period against Daniel Cockerill, but Cockerill battled back to tie the score at three with just 25 seconds left in the bout.
In the first overtime period neither wrestler scored, so to the two 30-second periods they went. Cockerill managed to score a one-point escape with one second on the clock to take a 4-3 lead into the final 30 seconds. Salzer battled valiantly to match Cockerill’s point and force another period, but the Bengals’ 113-pounder held on to take the win.
Joseph Myers, Parker Ragsdale, Myles Jones, Javon Johnson, Daniel Richardson and Joel Hoffert strung together six consecutive wins for Holly Springs to put the team score out of reach.
At 126 pounds, one weight class up from his normal 120, Ragsdale won a hard-fought 12-1 decision over Jamel Avery. The win moved the junior to 30-1 on the season, and he remains unbeaten in the conference.
A year ago, as a sophomore, Ragsdale placed third in the state at 113 pounds. This year, he said, has been a different experience all together, aside from the success.
“I definitely feel more comfortable this season,” he said. “I’m a year older with more experience. It matters. But I will say, last year I was the underdog. Nobody knew who I was. This year, people know me and I’m getting everybody’s best match against me. So I’ve just got to be ready every match this year, whereas last year I think I surprised a lot of people.”
With the outcome of the match long decided, Fuquay’s Kyle Thompson closed the night with a come-from-behind 9-6 decision at 160 pounds.
With the team victory, the Hawks now begin to look ahead to the state team dual tournament. A year ago, they were eliminated in the first round. With more experience and, according to Inge, hopefully improved health, this year’s group is looking to more damage in the post season.
“We’ve taken steps over the last few years, but we haven’t taken that top-10 step,” Inge said. “We’ll take each match one at a time, but hopefully we can accomplish some things this year. We’re still not [completely healthy] though. We’re missing a couple of key people. We’re at about 90 percent I would say. Hopefully, we can get healthy here soon and really be able to see how well we can do.”