Right before the final match of the Two Rivers 3A Conference individual wrestling tournament, the members of the Corinth Holders squad gathered together to discuss one thing.
“We’ve got to be louder than they are,” was the mantra passed from teammate to teammate seconds before the 285-pound match between the Pirates’ Frankie Miller and Cleveland’s Ja’Nathan Coward was to begin.
The crowd then erupted into back-and-forth chants of “Let’s go Frankie!” versus “Let’s go Nathan!”
Eventually, the Frankie cheers won, as did the conference wrestler of the year. Miller pinned Coward with 10 seconds left in the second period.
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“It’s great and it really encouraged me on,” Miller, now 36-1, said of the cheers. “It got me to do my very best. And I knew I needed to because me winning might’ve secured the conference title.”
What Miller, the crowd and almost everyone in the Corinth Holders gym didn’t know was the match was tied at 214 before it started.
The Pirates won the conference tournament just three days after losing the dual title to Cleveland in a 38-24 loss.
“You can’t get any closer than that,” Pirates head coach Kristian Stewart said. “We took that loss very hard. This is a heartfelt team. They are very close and they have this expectation to win. But that’s the nature of the beast, but like I told them after the loss, it’s not about losing. Instead, it’s about how you respond.”
Both teams had nine wrestlers reach the championship matches, and both had five win titles. Last year’s champion, Western Harnett, had three of its six win crowns and Triton came away with one.
“They are an awesome group,” Cleveland head coach Kenny Watkins said. “They battle hard every single day. We knew we are better in duals than individuals. We don’t have a stud wrestler, or any returning guys who went won states. Instead, we have 14 guys who come to practice every day, work hard and bust their tails.”
The team standings finished with Corinth Holders at 220, followed by Cleveland (214), Western Harnett (150), Triton (90), South Johnston (34) and Smithfield-Selma (23).
Two of last year’s champions defended their crowns as Western Harnett’s Trevor Wicker won the 126-pound medal with a 1-0 victory over Cleveland’s Michael Pineda and Corinth Holders junior Larry Williams pinned South Johnston’s Diego Sanchez at 220.
Wicker scored the lone point on an escape in the second period, and rode out the rest of the match. However, Pineda nearly got a reversal in the last 5 seconds of their match, but Wicker held on.
“It was closer than I wanted it to be,” said Wicker, who won the 106-pound title in his freshman and sophomore seasons. “We scrambled hard in the first, then I just rode him the rest of the way. He almost got me, I tried a banana split, but he got my head there in the end.”
In Williams’ win, the junior led 2-1 and almost allowed Sanchez to escape before he recovered and pinned him at the 1:37 mark.
“He almost caught me with a roll,” Williams said. “But I got him.”
Williams said the Pirates were motivated followed the loss to Cleveland.
“Every match you have to fight for your life,” he said. “Go as hard as you can and believe you can win. If you do that, you can achieve it.”
Cleveland got titles from freshman brothers Jayden and Jackson Desaulniers at 106 and 120 pounds, respectively.
Jayden won via pin at the 5:37 mark over Western’s Cole Furrie and Jackson pinned Western’s Mason Taylor at the 2:14 mark.
“We both had the goal at the beginning to win titles and go to states,” Jayden said. “We want to be the first freshmen at the school to do it. We thought it would be hard, but midway through the season is when we started to believe.”
Jackson said it was tough, but worth it.
“It’s took a lot of hard work,” he said. “Just like all the other champions today. You work hard and are dedicated and it pays off.”
The Pirates’ other winners were David Price with a pin of Triton’s Antone Patterson at 138, Dustin Styons via pin over Western’s Dylan Bleyl at 145 and Mike Darden’s pin of Cleveland’s David Spencer at 160.
The Rams got championships from Zachary Lejnar at 152 over Corinth’s Brandon Barrow by an 8-4 decision, Christopher Gilmartin with a pin of Corinth’s Cameron Carroll at 170 and Jonathan Kisner’s pin of Triton’s Tyre Cameron at 195.
Western Harnett’s Jack Taylor (113) beat Cleveland’s Richard Alvuardo 10-3 and James Clark (182) won 4-2 over Corinth’s Seamus Brennan.
Triton’s Danielle Sanders pinned Corinth Holders’ Gray Stewart in 12 seconds at 132 pounds.