Ever since they wound up back together in the same conference in 2008, there’s been a pecking order in the wrestling standings for Orange and Chapel Hill.
Usually, they end up in that exact order by season’s end. Orange as champion, Chapel Hill as runnerup.
Orange has won 13 consecutive conference championships in three different classifications.
Though he lost several seniors from last year, Chapel Hill coach Tripp Price feels like he could compete with the Panthers this year. When Price outlined the schedule for this Big 8 campaign, he knew the mission for his team would be to keep the pecking order straight until the final two dual matches of the year.
Those final matches are home dates: Orange on Jan. 27 and Northwood on Jan. 28. Back-to-back on consecutive days. (Just for good measure, and a feel for what the state tournament puts a wrestler through, Chapel Hill also has a quad meet scheduled for Jan. 29.)
Now, entering the second week of the January, the area pecking order that’s stayed tried and true for eight years is as consistent as most years.
Orange was 16-2 at the start of January, having defeated Northwood head-to-head to go to 2-0 in Big 8 matches. Northwood finished December at 20-3.
Last Wednesday night, Chapel Hill (10-2, 2-0) defeated Cedar Ridge 44-33 at Red Wolves Gymnasium, but it was an expensive win.
With Chapel Hill leading 38-24, 145-pounder Chris Volk suffered a separated shoulder in the second period of his match with Shane Fowler. Volk was unable to continue, and Cedar Ridge narrowed the deficit to 38-30 with two matches remaining.
The plot thickened after Red Wolf Grady Pritchard earned a 11-8 decision over Matthew Minnick at 152. With Chapel Hill’s lead down to 38-33, the Tigers’ William Hess ended the suspense by pinning Seth McKee in 2:45.
“I was proud of the way William stepped up,” said Price. “We were short handed tonight with Joe Cannon (at 195), so we had to move Bradley Kenyon in that spot. He was big for us.”
Kenyon pinned Ethan Harvey in 38 seconds. Camden Bergey, George McBurney, Hudson Price, Zin Muang, Wesley Kelley and Zachary Allen also earned wins for the Tigers.
McBurney and Price, both offensive lineman for the Chapel Hill football team, are now 22-6 on the season. Bergey is 20-8.
The scare put up by Cedar Ridge wasn’t the first one against the Big 8 blue bloods. In December, Northwood led Orange 36-34 with one match remaining. Panther sophomore Jamar Davis managed to win a major decision 16-4 over Luke Orbich to preserve the Panthers’ win streak with a 38-36 final score.
Orange lost for the first time this season in matches with Southeast Guilford and Swansboro during the Orange Winter Duals last weekend. Still, Orange will arrive at Chapel Hill on Jan. 27 in likely the same position it was in last year: looking to beat the Tigers for another conference championship.
“I feel like we can compete with Orange and Northwood,” said Price. “I knew that Northwood would be very good this year with (Michael and Hunter) Queen and John Dunning. We’re young in some spots, but I think we can compete against anyone.”
This weekend, the Tigers are competing in Holly Springs in the Holly Springs Hawks Duals.