RALEIGH — It was only fitting for the Cap Eight wrestling tournament to come down to the wire.
After ending the regular season in a three-way tie for first place, host Millbrook managed to edge conference co-champion Sanderson by a point Saturday to win the conference tournament with 143 points.
Leesville Road finished third with 124 points, and Wake Forest-Rolesville, the third team to share the conference title, totaled 117 points in the tournament. Broughton (101 points), Heritage (32), Enloe (27) and Wakefield (9) followed.
“We always say every match counts, and it counted,” said Millbrook coach Scott Saby. “Everybody who scored points was huge. We set this as a goal, especially with the three-way tie, and it’s special because it’s here and it’s at our house.”
Millbrook pulled ahead by winning the final two bouts of the tournament. Devonte Smith won the 152-pound class by major decision and Chris Williams won his second Cap Eight title by taking the 160-pound class to give Millbrook the one-point win.
“As it turned out there’s no one I’d rather have had on our team to be the closer,” Saby said of Williams.
Millbrook’s Hunter McClelland also finished atop his 220-pound class.
Saby said the win was truly a team effort, and hoped the Wildcats now realized the value of a point.
Williams was well aware of the team’s slim margin of victory after beating Sanderson by one point during the regular season and then besting the Spartans again by one in the tournament.
“Two points and we don’t win anything,” Williams said.
Rather than use the conference tournament to determine seeding for the state dual tournament due to the regular season tie, Millbrook, Sanderson and Wake Forest-Rolesville drew numbers Thursday settle the tie. Sanderson ended as the top team, followed by Millbrook and Wake Forest-Rolesville.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A dual team playoffs begin Tuesday.
Wake Forest-Rolesville coach Sam Hershey said every team in the conference has gotten stronger this year.
Hershey was named Cap Eight Coach of the Year, and one of his wrestlers, 120-pound champion Mitch Goldbach, was named conference Wrestler of the Year.
“I didn’t expect it to be that close, and personally, I didn’t expect us to do as well as we did, but we stepped up,” Goldbach said of the conference race.
His teammates Nashid Barrow (138) and Jacob Williams (132) also were champs for the Cougars.
“The tournament is a meat grinder, but it’s a spring board,” said Leesville Road coach Jason Wyss. “This will get you ready for regionals. … We’re just making each other better by competing against each other.”
Leesville Road, which fell out of contention for the conference’s top spot near the end of the regular season, had five wrestlers place first in their weight classes.
Leesville’s Chris Kimmerly (106-pound class), Zach Jones (113), Matt Cesari (145), Jackson Tucker (170) and Chris Pendergraft (285) all took top spots.
“This year is crazy,” Wyss said of the tightly contested conference race. “We kind of sputtered toward the end of the dual meet season trying to fill the roster, but I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
Having fallen short of the dual team tournament, Wyss hopes Leesville wrestlers can make a run in the individual tournament, which begin Feb. 22.
Broughton’s Roberto Phillips (182) and Neh Siu (126), and Enloe’s Damien Dozier (195) were also top finishers in their respective classes.
Whether heading to state duals or individual regionals, the Cap Eight coaches hope the fierce competition has prepared the conference’s wrestlers to make a playoff run.
“I want to build off the positive experience and we’ll continue to improve and be ready for state duals,” Saby said.