Holly Springs is aiming for a state championship this year.
After all, the Golden Hawks (39-3, 7-0) were 4A East runners-up and all three losses were to teams in the state championships: 4A East champ Jack Britt, 4A state champ Parkland and 3A state champ Morehead.
Coach Nick Nosbich stepped in for Brandon Inge, who stepped down this offseason to spend more time with his family. But the goal is the same for Nosbich, who has been an assistant for three years and helped develop many of the team’s wrestlers on JV.
“I’ve had time to work with these guys and they know me. They’re comfortable with my expectations and how I run things,” Nosbich said.
The Golden Hawks will have a strong 14-wrestler lineup. Returning is senior Travian Cooke (40-3), who was third at 160 pounds. Juniors Cam Devers (138 pounds, 49-6) and Nick Connochie (145, 42-10) and seniors Josh Richardson (182, 28-14) and C.J. Toogood (220, 47-10) were each state qualifiers.
Senior Shane Newman was honorable mention all-conference at 195 pounds.
“We have four or five other guys who have won 20 or more varsity matches. There are three guys who are going to be in the starting lineup who were one match away from getting to the state tournament, and they’ve only gotten better,” Nosbich said.
Competing for the state title includes beating a loaded Cary (15-2, 6-1) team for the conference title. The series has been as close as it has been important. Before last year’s 31-30 victory, the Hawks had battled the Imps to losses of 33-31 and 30-27 in previous seasons.
This year’s match is set for Dec. 10.
The Imps are led by N.C. State recruit Will Clark (138 pounds), who won state and national championships last year. He was 49-1 in 2013-14 and is 104-2 during the past two years. Junior Kollin Wade (45-4) finished third at 132.
Cary also returns state qualifiers in seniors Ian Anderson (106 pounds, 38-11) and Mark Mulligan (160, 41-11) and juniors Alex Zuniga (170, 40-11) and Javon Jarrett (285, 36-17). Senior Lucas Fryar (113) was honorable mention all-conference.
Athens Drive (22-14, 5-2) made its first appearance in the team playoffs in 13 years when it finished third in last year’s SWAC. The Jaguars are hoping for even more success this year as seniors Trey Cornish (120, 41-13) and Grant Finkbeiner (132, 48-9) return.
Few conferences can tout a better fourth-place team than Panther Creek (19-5, 4-3) last season. The Catamounts bring back two state qualifiers – junior Miles Kent (145, 26-10) and senior Matt Stober (160, 26-10).
Apex (11-17, 3-4) had the 4A state runner-up at 120 pounds in senior Chance Davis (40-6).
Green Hope (5-17, 1-6), Middle Creek (3-13, 1-6) and Fuquay-Varina (5-12, 1-6) tied for sixth last year.
Green Hope returns state qualifier Michael Eastwood (106, 45-12), a senior, as well as junior all-conference heavyweight Keanu Gonzalez and senior honorable mention 182-pounder Matt Mason. Fuquay-Varina senior Daniel Cockerill (113, 28-15) also qualified for states.