Cary has climbed back to the top of the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference wrestling standings. Conference championships are expected at Cary, but this year’s rise wasn’t something you could see coming on paper.
The Imps graduated three wrestlers who had won state 4A titles in either 2015 or 2016. Two other state qualifiers didn’t return, leaving tradition-rich Cary with just three state-qualifying wrestlers returning to one of 14 starting spots.
Instead of taking a step backward from a 21-6 team that lost in the first round of last year’s dual-team playoffs, the Imps are wrapping up the regular season undefeated.
On Tuesday Cary edged Holly Springs 33-26 – earning the last six points via pin in a winner-take-all final bout – to retake the SWAC title, its first since 2013.
When the lights went out on last season, coach Taylor Cummings said, his Cary (21-0) team went to work.
“We have a core of guys who wrestled from Feb. 20 (the date of the state championship) last year all the way up to Oct. 31 (the first day of practice). They went to tournaments every single weekend and they probably got something like 150 matches within those months,” Cummings said. “It’s something we’ve always done, but this core of guys re-committed themselves in the offseason.”
The improvement shows in the rankings, where Cary has more wrestlers – six in all – ranked than last year when it finished fourth in the team standings at the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A individual tournament.
But it also shows in the confidence of the team.
When Tuesday’s match came down to sophomore first-year starter Jordan Glover at heavyweight, Glover – who entered the match just 11-13 overall – said he told Cummings he was going to pin his opponent after Cummings asked he just worry about winning.
Cary led 27-26, which brought the packed stands at Holly Springs to a fever pitch (in wrestling, a win by eight or fewer points is worth three team points, so the winner between Glover and Holly Springs’ Matt Nordberg was going to claim the team victory too). Glover pinned him in 3 minutes and 27 seconds.
“Jordan has looked like a senior at times and at times he’s shown his sophomore status as well,” Cummings said. “I think the cool thing about Jordan is he gets up for matches like this. He gets up for the crowd. Times we’ve wrestled him in our gym at a dual meet, he’s done great. Other times, when he doesn’t feel that pressure, he doesn’t wrestle as well.”
Cary will likely be the No. 1 seed in the Mideast next week when the dual-team playoffs brackets are released Monday.
The next week, the team prepares for the individual championships with regionals on Feb. 10-11 and the state championships on Feb. 16-18. Freshman Kobe Early is ranked third in 4A at 106 pounds, Anthony Schiess 10th at 126, Delante Robinson second at 145, Nate Kinsey second at 152, Joe Grena 10th at 170 and Nick Straight eighth at 182.