RALEIGH — It’s always tough to predict the outcome of rivalry games; the rule of thumb is throw out both teams’ records, because when rivals face off, the motivation of ruining the other team’s season can produce an unexpected winner.
Cary Academy and Ravenscroft, which combine for one of the Triangle’s fiercest rivalries, faced off on the wrestling mat on Thursday, and the Chargers (16-7) did just enough to avoid an upset against the Ravens (6-8).
“We started out a little sluggish,” said Cary Academy coach Eric Moore. “But we had enough quality guys willing to step up and fight for the win tonight, so I’m really proud of those guys.”
The Chargers won five of the seven final matches to escape with a 45-31 victory that was much closer than the score indicated, even as the Ravens have been battling injuries and sickness that has swept through their locker room.
Ravenscroft was forced to forfeit four matches, and Cary Academy had to surrender one match. If you take out those results, Ravenscroft tallied 25 points to Cary Academy’s 21.
“It was a good battle, like it always will be between these two schools,” said Ravenscroft coach Garrett Cummings. “Unfortunately, we’re dealing with the injury and sickness bug that is sort of typical of January wrestling season.”
The Ravens took an early 10-0 lead on their home mat, claiming victories in the first two weight classes thanks to a major decision win by Liam King (106) and a pin that didn’t even take 30 seconds by Blake Sanders (113).
“Being in a hole that early, it was a little bit of a scare,” Moore said. “But I knew we had some of our older guys coming up, to hopefully right everything and get it back on our side.”
Julian Sodano (120) won by decision and Owen Fitzgerald (126) pinned his opponent to close the gap to 10-9 for the Chargers, but Ravenscroft would later extend their lead to 22-15 after a gutsy performance by Jonathan Prather (145), who pinned Keegan Hines with 18.5 seconds left in the final period despite being down 5-0.
“I’m very pleased with the way our guys wrestled,” Cummings said. “But [Cary Academy] came out and wrestled really tough.”
Austin Neaville (160) came up with a pin for the Chargers to give them a 27-22 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
“[Neaville] was sluggish, but he was one of those guys who refused to leave the mat with a loss,” Moore said. “Him coming through for us, that was big.”
Casey Miles (195), who wrestled up a weight class, clinched Cary Academy’s victory by earning a pin to stake out an insurmountable 39-25 lead.
Ian Conley (132, pin) and Jon Pupa (182, decision) combined for nine points for the Ravens.
The two conference foes face off again on Tuesday, this time at Cary Academy.
Moore knows his team will have to be at their best to beat their rivals again, especially if the Ravens recover from their ailments by then.
“We’ve really gotta solidify what we’re doing and make sure to try to pick up the win on Tuesday,” Moore said. “[Ravenscroft] is strong; they’re gonna keep getting better, so my job is to keep my team getting better right alongside of them.”