CARY — A 30-year reign of conference tournament dominance came to an end Saturday as Holly Springs edged regular-season champ Cary for the Tri-9 wrestling tournament title.
Holly Springs had five individual champions and four runners-up to total 214.5 points, clipping Cary’s total of 202.
Cary had four champions and four runners-up, and Holly Springs knew it would be close.
Holly Springs coach Brandon Inge remembered his team’s heartbreak two years when ago his Golden Hawks had lost to Cary by two points in the tournament.
“I was nervous, because I was tired of losing to Cary,” said Holly Springs’ Aaron Redus.
Each conference champ had something to say.
Aaron Redus, Holly Springs (106 pounds): A junior, Redus is ranked first in the state. He pinned Middle Creek’s Ryan Pasquale in the final bout.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” he said. “I don’t think the rankings are accurate, but it’s nice to be recognized for working hard all season. ... I’m the only one in that ranking that hasn’t been to the state tournament yet.”
Chance Davis, Apex (113): Davis, a sophomore, pinned Fuquay-Varina’s Daniel Cockerill for his second straight Tri-9 title.
“I think I was more confident this year,” Davis said. “The nerves were a lot worse last year, the first time being there.”
Parker Ragsdale, Holly Springs (120): Ragsdale finished third in the state last season, but this was his first Tri-9 title.
“My freshman year I lost to a state champ and my sophomore year I lost to the kid from Middle Creek who should’ve been a state champ. So it feels good to finally win,” Ragsdale said. “But that’s not the end goal, the end goal is to be on top at the end of the year.”
Will Clark, Cary (126): Still undefeated, Clark was named the Tri-9’s wrestler of the year. He’s also No. 1 in the state.
“It’s my first official year of wrestling, because I didn’t wrestle much last year. To do all this and be a part of a team like Cary is just really great,” Clark said.
Alex Ynoquio, Cary (132): It was fitting that Ynoquio broke through to win a Tri-9 title this year, given last year’s loss was one of the things that motivated him all offseason.
“I felt as if I should’ve worked harder seeing all the times I was second place or third place. I wanted to be on top of the podium,” Ynoquio said.
Javon Johnson, Holly Springs (138): Johnson’s second straight Tri-9 title came against Cary.
“I knew that a head-to-head match against Cary was especially big,” Johnson said. “We had to put points on the board.”
Daniel Richardson, Holly Springs (145): Richardson recorded a 14-4 victory against Green Hope’s Chris Duckworth in the final.
Eric Wilberg, Fuquay-Varina (152): Wilberg’s coach Ed Petrosky was named Tri-9 coach of the year after the Bengals’ four-spot improvement in the standings from a year ago.
“It also feels good to help coach Petrosky turn it around,” Wilberg, a senior, said. “He’s made me competitive and without him I wouldn’t be able to compete highly for the state title this year, and I have a good shot now.”
Mark Mulligan, Cary (160): Like Davis, Mulligan is now two-for-two in Tri-9 titles.
“It’s the best feeling. I’m trying to be four-for-four by my senior year, but I’m taking it one year at a time,” Mulligan, a sophomore, said.
Austin Galati, Holly Springs (170): Galati had another pivotal win for the Golden Hawks, defeating Cary’s Ryan Silverman.
“I hadn’t wrestled him yet this season,” Galati said. “When it was 4-1 in the third period I was just trying to hold on a little bit.”
Matt Powell, Panther Creek (182): Powell’s first conference title comes in a season where he’s now ranked second in the state.
“It’s fun to start putting myself up at this level,” Powell, a junior, said. “I went .500 last year and it just feels good to put in a lot of work in the offseason and come out successful this season.”
Jake Castagnero, Apex (195): The team success wasn’t there this year for Apex, but Castagnero and Davis hope to make sure there are at least a few Cougars on the final podium at state.
“It is nice to be recognized. We weren’t big, we just didn’t have the numbers to do good in dual meets,” Castagnero said.
Corey Daniels, Cary (220): Daniels defeated Panther Creek’s Aaron Chan 10-5 in one of two Tri-9 finals where both wrestlers were ranked in the state.
“It’s always a close match between me and him,” Daniels, a senior, said. “I let it fly. I didn’t hold anything back. Normally I’ve wrestled a little conservative with him because it is so close and I don’t want to give anything up.”
Mike Sutton, Panther Creek (285): Sutton didn’t have to come back to wrestling after committing to Air Force’s football team, but he wanted to for reasons like locking up his second straight Tri-9 title.
“I love wrestling and it’s something I’m going to try do at (Air Force’s) prep school,” Sutton said.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps