There’s a legend that Boston Celtics great Bill Russell used to grow so anxious before games, he would regurgitate before going out on the court. It became such a pattern, Red Auerbach once refused to take the floor until Russell did his business.
Some might think that’s unusual. Cary heavyweight wrestler Rod Perry doesn’t.
The very thought of him losing his heavyweight championship match at the 35th Jim King Orange Invitational Wrestling Tournament on Saturday made him ... well.
“I had to use the bathroom. Probably two or three times,” said Perry, who pinned Randon Lee of Northwest Guilford in :17 to capture the heavyweight championship. “I get really nervous before my matches, but somehow when I step on the mat, a whole different mindset comes into me. I probably won’t stop getting nervous.”
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Cary’s Kollin Wade also earned a championship at 145 by getting a major decision, 8-0, over Clayton’s Nick Brown, and Imp teammate Enrique Zuniga won the 170 title with a 7-2 decision over Matt Ceparano of Southern Alamance.
The Imps finished third in the team championship with 196.5 points.
For the first time since 2011, Orange captured the team championship in its own tournament. Though the Panthers didn’t have any individual champions, they had 11 grapplers place in the top six, including runner-up finishes for freshman Gavin Wiggins (113), Joe Scott (152), and Juan Torres (182). All told, that was worth 223.5 points.
“His (Torres) technique has really improved,” said Orange coach Bobby Shriner, who came to Orange in 1990 to replace King as head wrestling coach. “He has a unique ability being so low to the ground. We’re really glad he came out for wrestling.”
Southern Alamance finished second (202.5 points) and Winston-Salem Glenn (131) fourth, while Clayton (123) rounded out the top five teams.
Other area teams to compete in the JKO, one of the Piedmont’s top early season showcases, included: Pittsboro Northwood (116) in seventh; Sanderson 99) eighth; Durham Riverside (89) ninth; Nothern Durham (87.5) 10th; Millbrook (86) 11th; Leesville Road (84) 12th; Middle Creek (81) 13th; Jordan (70) 14th; and Corinth Holders (54) 16th.
Other area champions included Michael Lines of Clayton at 182 pounds.
After placing second individually in last year’s JKO, Eastern Alamance’s Mitch Dean was named Most Outstanding Wrestler, capturing the 152-pound title.
“It’s really a great honor,” said Dean, a two-time 3-A state finalist at 145. “I’ve focused on my nutrition, my weight training, my technique. This is my fourth trip here and I finally got it this year.”
Another grappler who finally claimed a championship following four trips to the JKO invitational was Northwood senior John Dunning, who won the 195-pound title. Dunning wore down Jonathan Pazcual of Winston-Salem Glenn to take a 3-1 decision in a match where all points were scored in the final period.
“Four years of hard work later to win this championship is an awesome feeling,” said Dunning, who lost to 2014’s champion Araad Sarrami of Riverside last season. “It was frustrating to come in third last year. So I came in this year with a chip on my shoulder.”
Dunning also had the most pins in the tournament, needing a cumulative 3 minutes, 39 seconds to pin three opponents.
Northern Durham’s Demazio Samuel, two weeks removed from playing linebacker on the gridiron, earned the 220 championship. He usually competes at 195.
“I might just stay at 220,” said Samuel, who finished 3rd in the state at 195 in 2014. “As a senior, I’ve worked my way up. When you see your teammates win as an underclassman, it inspires you.”
Southern Alamance’s Mundy McCray registered the fastest pin of the two-day tournament in just 9 seconds.