Cleveland, winners of the past three Two Rivers 3A Conference wrestling championships, rebounded from a loss in its conference opener with a 48-32 victory Wednesday over Smithfield-Selma.
The Rams, 4-4 in dual matches after a tough nonconference slate, evened its Two Rivers record at 1-1 by dominating the lighter weight classes and getting a pivotal pin from Lee Sugg at 170 pounds.
Cleveland was up 36-20 heading into the 170-pound match but the momentum was resting with Smithfield-Selma after the Spartans had won three straight weight classes.
Sugg, who lost to the Spartans’ Michael Whitley in a weekend individual tournament, was trailing 5-4 after the first period. But he worked for a pin with 21 seconds left in the second period to put the Rams up 42-20 with three weight classes remaining – sealing the team victory.
“Lee found a way to win,” Cleveland coach Kenny Watkins said. “We won by 16, but two matches could have gone either way.”
Smithfield-Selma (1-5-1, 1-1) got a 13-12 decision from Demario Moore to start the match, taking a 3-0 lead.
For the next six weight classes, it was all Cleveland.
Chris McIver won by forfeit at 106, followed up by first-periods pins by Ernesto Rodela at 113, Adam Collins at 120, Cameron Marquess at 126 and Mathew Cruz-Cruz at 132. Thomas Weaver completed the Rams’ run with a second-period pin at 138 and Cleveland was up 36-3.
Smithfield-Selma went on a 17-point run, getting five points for a 24-9 tech fall by Jeremiah Josey at 145, a first-period pin by John Glenn at 152 and a first-period pin by Brandyn McReady at 160.
“Our seniors are our heavier wrestlers,” Smithfield-Selma coach Wes Hill said. “We are a young team. We’ve got a lot of good kids with a lot of heart. They are learning every day and they come to work every day.
“We are looking forward to the future with them. One of our seniors was hurt, but overall the team did really, really well today. Our younger kids are getting better.”
Half of the 14 weight classes for Smithfield-Selma are currently being wrestled by underclassmen, Hill said.
After Sugg’s win at 170, Trevor Bryant won by forfeit at 182 to give Cleveland a 48-20 advantage.
Robert Hicks picked up a pin for Smithfield-Selma at 195 and Edgar Eilleda got a pin for the Spartans at 220.
Watkins said he expects the conference to boil down to a battle between the Rams, Western Harnett and Corinth Holders.
“I was glad to get a win,” Watkins said. “We’re beat up, have a lot of injuries going on right now, the same thing that hurt us against Western Harnett (a 43-32 loss). But as far as tonight’s match, mentally we weren’t ready to wrestle. We were lucky to win.
“I’m glad for the (Christmas) break. We’ve got about a week and a half to kind of lick our wounds and get ready for the heart of the season.”