Orange Panthers repeat NCHSAA 3A wrestling tournament state title

mblake@newsobserver.comMarch 2, 2013 

Northern Durham's Rodney Shepard, left, lifts Jack Britt's Aaron Dickson as part of a takedown during his 18-10 victory in the 152-pound 4-A NCHSAA state championships in Greensboro on Saturday, March 2, 2013.

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— The final round of the state wrestling individual tournament wasn’t what Orange’s wrestlers had hoped. But what came afterward was more gratifying.

The Panthers repeated their 3A state wrestling tournament championship.

Last year, it came with just one state champion. This year it came with none.

Joe Scott (106 pounds), Jack Twomey-Kozak (152), David Peters-Logue (160) and Aubrey Browning (182) all finished runner-up in their title bouts.

“We had a great semifinal where we punched four guys into the finals. It’s big points and that’s the difference in this tournament,” Orange coach Bobby Shriner said.

The Panthers, now champions of four of the last six state tournament titles, qualified 10 wrestlers and six of them placed. Anderson Pope (145) was third and Collin Smith (126) was fifth.

Orange lost a heartbreaker in the second round of the dual-team tournament, but still took away a state title this year.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever not done well in the duals and come back (to win the tournament),” Shriner said.

Northern doubles its state champion list: Northern Durham’s Rodney Shepard (152) and Josh Brown (103) remembered the sting of losing a state title match all through this summer. It was a painful memory for both.

But it’s been replaced by two 4A state championships as the Knights doubled the school’s number of state champions from two to four in one night.

“We talked about it all the time ... We told ourselves we can’t have it again,” Brown said. “We’ll celebrate together like we cried together.”

Brown used two reversals on Southeast Guilford’s Jacob McNeill to help push him to a 9-4 win.

Shepard scored four takedowns in the first period to run away with a 18-10 win against Fayetteville Britt’s Aaron Dickson.

“I wanted to come out and start scoring points early, get my confidence up,” said Shepard, a N.C. State recruit. I figured the more work I do in the beginning of the match, the less pressure I have to rush at the end.”

An imperfect ride to perfection: Southeast Raleigh heavyweight Phillip Shuler had no wins as a freshman. He had no matches as a junior.

He’s got no losses as a senior.

Shuler pinned Lake Norman’s Brendan Latham in 3 minutes, 10 seconds to complete an undefeated year.

“I’ve been through so much,” Shuler said. “I did something stupid my junior year and couldn’t wrestle. Then come back senior year and to win it all with no losses? It’s quite a feeling.”

Shuler credited his coaches and his summer workouts for his trip to the pinnacle of 4A wrestling.

“I didn’t take any days off. I wrestled Greco and freestyle and it got me better on my feet,” said Shuler, who is Southeast Raleigh’s second state champ. NFL player Leroy Harris was the first.

Winning on a DQ: Apex’s Jake Castagnero (195) stood solitary on the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum sorting through his emotions.

He was a 4A state champ. He should be thrilled.

But he didn’t think it would be handed to him the way it was when Enloe’s Damien Dozier was disqualified for his fourth unsportsmanlike violation.

Dozier had already been penalized for a figure four leg lock on Castagnero’s head, pulling Castagnero’s fingers and cursing. When given his final warning, he cursed one more time and the match was over.

“It feels good, but I would’ve rather had him continue wrestling me because I knew I could beat him rather than the refs DQ him,” Castagnero said. “I just don’t want people to feel like all that hard work was given to me in the end.”

Castagnero missed nearly half of the year with injury, but worked his way back to full strength and even defeated the state’s No. 1 wrestler in the semifinals.

“That gave me more gratitude than (winning by DQ),” Castagnero said.

Carrboro’s first champ: George Carpenter (113) scored a reversal with 16 seconds left to make him a 2A state champ and the first state champ in Carrboro’s school history.

“I’m just choked up right now,” Carpenter said. “I’m the first. The first of many to come.”

Carpenter’s teammate Stephen Dreher (120) was up in position to be the second, but was pinned in 3 minutes, 32 seconds.

Runners-up: Holly Springs’ Javon Johnson and Chatham Central’s James Dagget were among the eight Triangle-area runners-up. Johnson was pinned in 2 minutes, 45 seconds, while Dagget lost 4-2.

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