In case receiving football scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and Wisconsin and being named the Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year weren’t enough this week, Orange’s Payton Wilson has added another honor.
His first Jim King/Orange Invitational wrestling championship.
After finishing third last year, Wilson won the 220-pound title by pinning Corinth Holders’ Larry Williams on Saturday at Orange High School.
Once Wilson’s football season ended last Friday, he took a recruiting trip to Clemson to watch the Tigers face South Carolina on Saturday. Ranked No. 1 1 in the state at 220, Wilson wrestled his first match of the season on Friday with all of four days practice.
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If you think four months of football served as natural conditioning for wrestling season, think again.
“It felt weird,” said Wilson. “In wrestling, there’s no substitute for being on the mat. Football can’t prepare you for that.”
For the second straight year, Orange captured the 29-team championship in the 36th Jim King/Orange Invitational Wrestling Tournament. Following a fifth-place finish in 2015, Orange’s Josiah Ramirez won the 170-pound title.
The Panthers finished with 231 points.
Middle Creek, making its tournament debut, finished second with 211.5.
The Mustangs had two champions: Gabe Pickett defeated Orange’s Jamar Davis at 195. Skyler Hendricks captured the 160-pound championship, somewhat to the surprise of coach Heath Allen.
“He’s only been wrestling two years,” Allen said. “He got the job done. He’s competing constantly and getting better every day.”
Chatham Central’s Nick Daggett, a two-time 1A state champ, was named most outstanding wrestler after repeating as champion at 113 pounds.
Cary finished third with three champions and one runner-up. At 106 pounds, freshman Kobe Early pinned Orange’s Mitchell Askew at 2:39.
Early, who grappled with Raleigh’s Arrichon Wrestling Club before starting at Cary in the fall, is 15-0.
“Kobe is just flying right out of the gates,” said Cary coach Taylor Cummings. “He’s like a 14-year-old wresting like an 18-year old right now. I’m glad he’s in a Cary singlet. He’s been exposed to wrestling in and out of state. He goes to Ohio every summer. He also wrestled at Cornell this summer.”
Cary’s Nate Kinsey defeated Apex’s Joey McMahon 4-2 for the 152-pound championship.
“He wrestled confidently,” said Cummings of Kinsey, who is also 15-0. “Getting past the milestone of qualifying for states has cleared his mind of any obstacles. McMahon is a solid wrestler who doesn’t make many mistakes. Nate is letting the match come to him now.”
In the 145-pound final, Cary’s Delante Robinson pinned Riverside’s Asante Boler.
Northwood’s Hunter Queen won the 160-pound championship.