Despite a six-point deficit with three matches to wrestle Wednesday night at Sanderson, Millbrook coach Scott Saby was plenty comfortable with the Wildcats' prospects of a victory.
And with reason.
Matt Flores, Jacob High and Vincent Ngwu won the final three bouts to give the Wildcats a 42-33 win over the Spartans, forcing a three-way tie for the Cap Eight Conference wrestling title with Sanderson and Leesville Road. As a result of the tie, the teams' coaches will meet Thursday to draw for seeding for the dual team state tournament, which begins Tuesday.
"This was a match we had to have," said Saby, whose team would have finished third in the conference with a loss and had to take their chances with earning a wild card to the state tournament. "We put the match last week [a 39-27 loss to Leesville] behind us, that's all we could do. And it gave us the opportunity to, if we beat Sanderson, get a share of the [Cap Eight] title."
Never miss a local story.
Down 33-27, Flores made short work in his match, earning a pinning in 1:03 to tie the dual 33-33.
With both High and Ngwu weighing in at 220, Saby elected to send out High for the 220-pound match and move Ngwu up to heavyweight. High, who missed a week of practice due to an illness, just wanted a chance to take the mat. He was in control throughout and picked up a 15-9 decision to give the Wildcats a 36-33 lead.
"I was just hoping coach would let me wrestle since I hadn't practiced all week," High said. "Once I got out there, I knew I had to stay in good position, follow my coaches, and I'd win. You always hope to get a pin, but I just wanted to help put the team in the best situation possible."
Ngwu took the mat for the evening's final match at heavyweight with an eye toward clinching the win for the Wildcats and a piece of the league title. After feeling his way through the first period, Ngwu scored an early reverse in the second and got the pin with 55 seconds left in the period.
" He was rough and pretty excited, given the situation," Ngwu said. "So I wanted to feel him out first. I got the takedown, and I knew I had it."
Millbrook led 18-6 after four matches, thanks to a Sanderson forfeit at 113 and pins by Christopher Medina at 120 and Jonathan Medina at 126.
The Spartans tied the match at 18 two bouts later, after a Millbrook forfeit at 132 and Sanderson's Elliot Davis earning a pin at 138. Sanderson 145-pounder Marquise Bowens outlasted Millbrook's Alexander Janni 6-5, and the Spartans had their first lead, 21-18.
The Wildcats surged back ahead 27-21 with Joshua Reid's pin at 152, and Derrick Dreier's 3-2 decision at 160.
Sanderson's Brandon Barrentine drew the Spartans even again, 27-27, following his pin at 170. Then Jalil Monk followed suit with a pin at 182 to put the Spartans up 33-27 with three matches to go.
"At that point, I felt like we were in good position," Saby said. "It doesn't always turn out that way, but we put the guys we wanted there, and they definitely came through."