Holly Springs and Cary were the dominant area 4A high school wrestling teams in 2012-13.
Cary reached the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A semifinals before being ousted by eventual state runner-up Fayetteville Britt, 39-21. Holly Springs had been eliminated by Britt in the second round by an almost identical score, 40-18.
Sanderson, which returns 11 starters, is expected to make a run at a state dual-team title.
Orange was the top 3A club but ran into eventual state runner-up Eden Morehead in the second round of the dual-team tournament. Morehead nipped Orange 34-31, ending the Panthers’ 17-2 season.
Orange went on to have four state weight class runners-up.
Teams to watch
Holly Springs (31-4): The Hawks return eight starters from a club that was eliminated in the second round by Britt, which eventually advanced to the 4A championships. Among the veterans are Aaron Redus (120 pounds, 56-3), Daniel Richardson (152, 51-9), Austin Galati (170, 46-7) and Travian Cooke (170, 48-7). The Hawks beat Cary for the conference and regional tournament championships but lost the conference dual-team title.
Cary (20-1): The Imps didn’t turn out individual state champions last season as they had in the past, but Cary remains the standard by which area 4A teams are evaluated. The Imps were undefeated in 2013 before losing to Fayetteville Britt in the Eastern finals. Junior Will Clark (51-1) finished third in the 126-pound class. The Imps return 12 starters, including state qualifier Mark Mulligan, and have added 120-pound transfer Parker Ragsdale, who was third in 2012.
Orange (17-2): The Panthers made an uncharacteristic early exit from the 3A dual-team tournament, losing to eventual state runner-up Eden Morehead in the second round. But Orange returns eight starters, including 170-pound senior David Peters-Logue (43-4), 120-pound sophomore Joe Scott (37-5) and 138-pound senior Collin Smith (36-11), who make up half of the returning wrestlers who qualified for the state competition.
Wake Forest (22-4): The Cougars made the playoffs as a wild card after a three-way tie for the Cap Eight 4A title but were ousted in the first round by Cary. The Cougars return Nick Mutio, Nashid Barrow and Nicholas Fant – all state qualifiers.
Sanderson (16-3): The Spartans finished in a three-way tie for the Cap Eight 4A title in 2012-13 and return 11 starters. Antwuan Elliott (220) and Christopher Granan (195) are ranked among the top 10 in the state in their weight classes. Adam DeRose (113) is closing in on 100 victories. Sanderson reached the second round of the playoffs and has won three straight Cap Eight 4A titles.
Corinth Holders (40-5): The Pirates emerged as a 2A power, reaching the third round of the playoffs before dropping a 38-35 decision to eventual state runner-up Croatan. The Pirates return seven starters, including Cameron Brewer (132) and fourth-place finisher Darius Dunn (113).
West Johnston (20-7): The Wildcats ran into Holly Springs in the first round of the dual-team tournament last season but are the Greater Neuse 4A favorites this season. West Johnston returns state qualifiers Seth Thomas and Sam Campbell as well as 106-pound state 4A fourth-place finisher Tony Jimenez.
Cleveland (22-7): The Rams return state qualifiers in seniors Derrick Applewhite (120), Jhavonte Moon (145) and Chanse Wallace (170).
Lee County (18-7): The Yellow Jackets were competitive in the Tri-9 4A last season and stand to benefit even more with a move to the Cape Fear Valley 3A. Brandon Prevatte (20-14), at 182 pounds, is the top returner.
Millbrook (26-5): Another team that tied for the Cap Eight 4A dual-team title, the Wildcats don’t bring back any state qualifiers but should be strong again. Sophomores Hunter McClelland (220) and Crayton Saby (106) and senior Nick Norton (120) all surpassed the 30-win mark and seniors Aaron Rehberg (182) and Jonathan Woodbury (170) were close behind.
Fuquay-Varina (10-7): First-year coach Ed Petrovsky rejuvenated interest in the sport at the school that claims to two dual-team and two tournament team state championships. The Bengals will be a bit younger but return senior Roelvis Vargas (170) and juniors Daniel Cockerill (113) and Taylor Highsmith (132).
Wrestlers to watch
George Carpenter, Carrboro, 113 pounds, Sr.: School’s first state champion won 2A title at 35-4.
James Daggett, Chatham Central, 113 pounds, Sr.: 1A runner-up for the second year in a row. Bears return three state qualifiers including juniors Curtis Brown and Casey Canterbury.
Tony Jimenez, West Johnston, 106, Sr.: 4A runner-up.
Stephen Dreher, Carrboro, 120 pounds, Sr.: Finished runner-up in 2A and posted 25-5 record.
Chance Davis, Apex, 113 Sr.: Built 48-6 record in 2012 while finishing fifth in 4A.
Courtland Parker, Jordan, 285, Sr.: The only returning state qualifier for the Falcons (24-7), who won the PAC-6 4A and lost in the second round of the dual-team playoffs.
Matt Cesari, Leesville Road, 145, Sr.: The Pride went 24-6 in dual-team competition and Cesari was the lone state qualifier.
Deshon Holmes, Northern Durham, 220, Sr.: The Knights (27-9) had two state champions last season, and Holmes was the only other wrestler to qualify for states.
Matt Powell, Panther Creek, 182, Sr.: The lone returning state qualifier for the Catamounts (18-5), who are under a new coach.
Jairo Fernandez, Durham School of Arts, 113, Jr.: Top returner for the Bulldogs (18-5), who won their split 1A/2A conference last season.