West Johnston faced a challenge from an improving Garner wrestling team Wednesday night, but the Wildcats had no trouble handling it.
With the rotation starting at 152 pounds, the Wildcats scored pins in the first four matches and never looked back, rolling to a 59-18 victory on the Trojans’ mat.
The win improved West to 11-2 overall and 2-0 in the Greater Neuse River 4A, a conference in which the Wildcats have won the dual-meet standings, the individual tournament or both for the past eight seasons.
Garner, in its first season with former assistant Ryan Tingle at the helm, fell to 2-2 and 1-1.
“Garner is attempting real solid, sound technique,” said veteran West Johnston coach David Prendergast said. “They’re not there yet, but it’s going to work in the near future. (Tingle) is doing a great job. I was impressed. He’s got unity on his team, and everybody is together.
“We could have been better, but we suffered a lot of injuries. Seth (Thomas) is coming off a dislocated elbow at 126. We lost our starter (Joe Fiorello) at 182 for the year with a dislocated shoulder. When we get everybody in the right weight classes, we won’t have a 195, but everybody else will be strong.”
West picked up eight of its 11 victories by pin, while Garner picked up two pins and a forfeit.
“It’s disappointing when you lose by that much,” Tingle said. “But it’s a tough opponent that’s been on top of the conference for years. Condition-wise, I thought our guys looked pretty good. We put up a fight. I saw some good things, but we just have to keep working. We’re building a culture, and then we’ll build a program.”
Five of the Wildcats’ pins came in the first period. Sam Campbell at 220 was the quickest, stopping Maurice Jones in 22 seconds.
“I’ve been training hard with a lot of off-season competitions,” said the junior, who improved to 12-0 this season. “I’m trying to go as far as I can in the state tournament.
“We’re pretty solid right now for the rest of the year since we’ve gotten some guys back from injuries.”
West’s George Nathaniel, at 160 pounds, pinned Matthew Orr in 53 seconds, while Brian Crutchfield at 145 stopped Deante Jones in 59 seconds in the evening’s final match.
“I was able to pin him with a ball-and-chain tilt,” said Nathaniel, a senior who improved to 12-0. “We’re going to be good if we put together some good teamwork and shore up some weaker links.”
Garner got pins by 285-pounder Amani Soumaouro, who stopped Matthew Chandler in 1:31, and 195-pounder Antwain Mercerius, who matted Adrian Salinas in 2:39.
“The key in my match was keeping inside control,” said Soumaouro, who improved to 7-1. “When I got him down, I just wanted to keep him inside the circle.
“I’ve been wrestling three years, and coach has got the program pumping. He wants to turn wrestling into a lifestyle for us.”