It has been a smooth transition for Holly Springs wrestling, even though it’s changing coaches at an important time.
The Golden Hawks went 39-3 and were 4A East runners-up. The three losses were to teams in the state championships: 4A East champ Jack Britt, 4A state champ Parkland and 3A East 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. They bring back five state qualifiers to the lineup, including Travian Cooke, who was third at 160 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. “The expectations are high. We’re training to compete with those best teams. We’re training to be the best team in the state.”
“We’re not trying to have one good year, we’re trying to reload every year.”
Competing for the state title includes beating a loaded Cary 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.
“We’re not training for Cary specifically, but we know every time we wrestle them it’s going to be a battle,” Nosbich said.
Teams to watch
Carrboro (22-7): The Jaguars lose the school’s two winningest wrestlers but bring back four state qualifiers: sophomore Otto Wolin (106, 28-17), sophomore Hserti Ya (113, 29-19), senior Keegan Cordell (138, 35-19) and junior Magnus Herweyer (285, 42-13).
Cary (15-2): Will Clark (138 pounds) was 49-1 last year 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).
Chapel Hill (22-7): The Tigers bring back junior state qualifiers Zach Allen (106, 31-22) and George McBurney (220, 28-7). Chapel Hill will be the host of the Tiger Holiday Classic, a 40-team tournament, on Dec. 22-23.
Chatham Central (19-5): The Bears were 1A tournament champs and dual-team runners-up. Sophomore Nick Daggett (106, 48-6), senior Rodney Van De Walker (152, 31-12) and Casey Canterbury (285, 32-5) each took third in the state.
Cleveland (11-7): The Rams return state qualifier, junior Mathews Cruz-Cruz (126, 43-12).
Holly Springs (39-3): Travian Cooke (40-3), a senior, was a regional champ and took third in the state at 160 pounds. Juniors Cam Devers (138, 49-6) and Nick Connochie (145, 42-10) and seniors Josh Richardson (182, 28-14) and C.J. Toogood (220, 47-10) all were state qualifiers.
Knightdale (12-4): Senior Brandon Skinner went 38-6 at 170 pounds, finishing fifth in 4A. Twin brother Brandon Skinner went 33-8 and qualified for state at 182 pounds.
Northern Durham (15-5): The Knights’ Atavion Oliver (182, 42-4) finished fifth in 4A.
Orange (24-3): The Panthers always are a force in 3A wrestling. Coach Bobby Shriner brings back senior Byron Stephenson (285, 37-9), who was fourth in the state, plus four other state qualifiers: junior Joe Scott (120, 41-7), junior Gonzalo Garcia Contoral (126, 35-14), senior Trent Tanner (145, 22-13) and senior Melik Jimenez (152, 33-12).
Panther Creek (19-5): The Catamounts bring back two state qualifiers – junior Miles Kent (145, 26-10) and senior Matt Stober (160, 26-10).
Riverside (14-5): PAC-6 //4A //Conference champs bring back two of the state’s best in their weight class. Senior Jaquon Sowell (37-3) was the 4A champion at 160 pounds. Heavyweight Gary Whitaker was third with a 48-4 record.
Sanderson (18-2): Longtime coach Jeremy Barefoot is gone, but the Cap Eight //4A// Conference champs have two returning state qualifiers – senior David Losada (132, 32-13) and junior Marquise Bowens (138, 22-22).
West Johnston (23-4): Longtime coach David Prendergrast is gone. Wildcats senior Sam Campbell (40-3) was a regional champ and 4A runner-up at 220 pounds.
Western Harnett (17-9): Co-champs of the Two Rivers 3A Conference, along with Corinth Holders and Cleveland, return just one state qualifier – junior Mason Morris (113, 38-13).
Millbrook (20-6): The Wildcats return just one state qualifier: junior Crayton Saby (106, 50-9).
Individuals to watch
Chance Davis, Apex, Sr.: The 4A runner-up at 120 finished 40-6.
Roberto Phillips, Broughton, Sr.: Went 35-6 en route to a fourth-place 4A finish at 195 pounds.
Atavion Oliver, Northern Durham, Sr.: Finished fifth at 182 with a 42-4 record.
Anthony Brito, Heritage, Soph.: The Huskies’ first state placer went 34-6 en route to a sixth-place finish at 126 pounds.
Nathean Castillo, South Granville, Jr.: Went 40-9 at 113 pounds, finishing sixth in 2A.
Nicholas Mutio, Wake Forest, Jr.: Hurt for much of the year, going 17-4, he won the regional and qualified for states at 113 pounds.
Michael Queen, Northwood, Jr.: Regional champ went 51-10 for the Chargers at 160 pounds.
Parick Tomasic, Voyager Academy, Sr.: Regional champ went 42-11 for the Vikings at 132 pounds.