Orange High School 285-pounder Byron Stephenson thought Nicholas Coe would spell trouble. And he was right.
Coe (51-3) from Asheboro High School, entered this year’s N.C. High School Athletics Association state wrestling championships undefeated against 3A opponents. A state finalist last year at 220 pounds, and the 285-pound champion of last December’s Tiger Holiday Classic and this month’s 3A NCHSAA Midwest Regional, Coe hadn’t dropped a match since losing for the second time this season to Riverside’s Gary Whitaker, the 4A state champion at 285. Coe had won 20 straight since then.
Saturday in the NCHSAA championship finals at the Greensboro Coliseum, Stephenson tried just about everything he could think of, but Coe proved too adept on defense.
“He was really good at defending shots,” Stephenson said. “And I didn’t hit the ones that I should’ve hit on him.”
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Able to fend off Stephenson’s attacks for 6 minutes, Coe walked off with a 3-2 decision and the NCHSAA 285 title.
Stephenson pinned his first two opponents in the championships and advanced to the final with a 6-4 decision against Jordan Wilson of East Gatson.
“Of course, I wasn’t hoping for second place, but second’s not too bad,” Stephenson said upon reflection of his 40-9 finish this year.
Orange’s Joe Scott placed fourth in the championships, losing a 1-0 decision to Judakiss Jumper of team champion Eden Morehead in the consolation final.
Scott regretted opting for a neutral start for the start of the third period.
“I chose neutral instead of bottom. I could’ve gotten an escape,” said Scott, who narrowly missed scoring a takedown in the last seconds. “I wanted to take him down, but it didn’t happen until – arguably – the end.”
“I’m pretty disappointed, but I’m going to work harder, and I’m going to win it next year,” said Scott, a junior. “I was hoping I could be a multiple-time state champ, but now there’s only one left. That’s what I’m thinking of.”
Orange finished in 11th place in the team standings with 42.5 points, the best showing of any local team. Led by 185-pound champion James Taylor III, Southern Durham placed 17th with 35 points, three ahead of Northwood (32) in 19th.
Northwood had two wrestlers place in the championships – Hunter Queen (third at 160 pounds) and John Dunning (sixth at 195 pounds).
Queen scored a major decision, 18-4, over Michael Nelson of West Brunswick before losing an 8-5 decision to eventual state champion Ethan Jones of Hickory Ridge. Queen then won another major decision in the consolation bracket, 10-0 against Connor Van Cleave of Union Pines.
Queen decisioned Shaquille Anderson of Fayetteville Terry Sanford 7-3 and Karter Batlich of South Iredell 5-3 to reach the consolation final, where he won a 3-2 decision against McMasters of China Grove’s Jesse Carson High School.
Carrboro placed 16th in the 2A classification with 36 points, helped by junior Dante Veltri’s fourth place at 120 pounds and a sixth place for Trenton Davis at 145.
Veltri won his initial bout, 7-1 against Westover’s Pavin Chunn, but then lost a narrow 6-5 decision to Schuyler Spurrier of Maiden. Veltri wrestled back to the consolation final with a pins of Jamonie Tolbert and Trinity’s Tyler Johnson before losing the third-place match to Christophe Gilbert of East Burke.
Camden Bergy scored three points for Chapel Hill with his pin of Rocky Mount’s Sedrak Sheppard in the consolation rounds of the 170-pound weight class. Bergey was knocked out of the tournament with an 8-4 loss to eventual consolation-bracket winner Will Dabbs of Eden Morehead.
Bergey finished his junior year at 47-14.
Team scores: Fayetteville’s Jack Britt won the 4A crown, Morehead took the 3A, Hunter Huss the 2A and Mitchell County was the 1A champion.