The Orange Panthers engaged in their usual back-and-forth battle in the Jim King/Orange Wrestling Invitational, but Cary wasn’t the main opposition for the first time since 2003.
The injury-riddled Imps slipped to sixth as Northwest Guilford outscored Orange 217.0 to 195.5 in the team scoring for the championship of the 34th annual JKO Saturday at Orange’s gym.
The Vikings took the team trophy back to Greensboro, marking the first time since 2003 Cary or Orange didn’t win the team title and the first time since 2006 that Cary or Orange didn’t both finish among the top three teams.
Orange held a slim lead on Northwest Guilford entering the medal rounds, but the Vikings pulled away with five finalists and four gold medalists to Orange’s three finalists and three runner-up finishes.
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“Cary was missing some kids, but it was still a tough tournament good teams competing,” Orange coach Bobby Shriner said. “Chatham Central and Southern Alamance wrestled very well.”
Chatham Central, the defending 1A N.C. High School Athletic Association state team champion, finished eighth with one champion and two runners-up. The Bears’ Nick Daggett won at 106 pounds, defeating Northwest Guilford’s Josh Hedrick to avenge a loss to Hendrick in last year’s JKO final.
“I really wanted to win this time,” Daggett said. “I think our team is wrestling well, and we can win state again.”
Chatham Central’s two runners-up were Rodney Van DeWalker (160) and Curtis Brown (195).
Orange’s three runners-up were 132-pounder Gonzalo Cantoral, 220-pounder Stone Edwards and heavyweight Byron Stephenson.
Cary had two finalists with junior Kollin Wade winning at 145 and senior Tra Shaw placing second at 152, buy the Imps competed without four of their top athletes.
Senior 4A state champ Will Clark (138) may be back next week and Virginia state champ Reid Stewart (106) in early January. Senior state qualifier Ian Anderson (113) is out until January, but junior state qualifier Erique Zuniga (160) may return next week.
“We’ve broken this season into two different parts,” Cary coach Taylor Cummings said. “We’re developing and trying to get healthy this part of the season. Then we want to hit the ground running and prove who we are.”
Cummings likes how Wade is competing, calling him “a machine” as tries to bounce back from settling for third place at last year’s state meet after a semifinal upset.
“I’m still hungry for a state title,” Wade said. “I’ve got to do a lot of work, but working with Will Clark makes me a better wrestler.”
Riverside was fifth with three gold medalists: Jaquon Sowell at 170, Araad Sarrami at 195 and Gary Whitaker at heavyweight. The highly-recruited Sowell has moved up a division after winning the 4A state 160 title last year.
“I’m wrestling bigger guys and feel like I have to get better,” Sowell said. “But if I keep working hard I can get another state title.”
One other champion from the Triangle was Apex senior Chance Davis at 132 pounds.
“I was nice to finally win this tournament,” said Davis, who was third in 2013 and fourth in 2012.
Other runners-up were Millbrook’s Crayton Saby (113), Leesville Road’s Zach Jones (138) and Northwood’s Michael Queen (182).
Jones was a surprise runner-up as the Pride senior placed in the JKO for the first time in his career.
“I wanted to win, but overall I’m happy,” Jones said. “I’ve improved everywhere this year.”