In what is now his third go-around as Apex’s varsity wrestling coach, Ross Little is hoping to elevate his program to a higher level, something the Cougars took another step toward doing Tuesday night by securing their first Southwest Wake Athletic Conference victory of the season with a 59-9 victory over visiting Apex Friendship.
Apex (3-5, 1-2) won all but two matches, with five of those victories coming by fall. Though the outcome wasn’t all that surprising considering Apex Friendship (2-3, 0-3) is in its first season of competition, the decisiveness of that outcome was rather pleasing to Little.
“We have some (inexperienced) kids and we had to bump some guys up to some weights they hadn’t wrestled before, but they pulled it off,” said Little, whose team was coming off a team title win last weekend at the Green Hope Grapple. “We have a long way to go, they are trying to learn my system and the way I do things, it’s a tough transition but we’ll get there.”
Apex’s Gabe Baragona opened the match with a 17-3 decision over Alec Montoya at 106 pounds before Friendship’s Gray Emberland countered with a 32-second pin of Trevor Mason at 113 which gave the Patriots a 6-4 lead.
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That lead was short-lived. The Cougars proceeded to win five of the next six matches by fall, with Blake Williams (120), Dalton Phillips (126), Joey McMahon (132), J.C. Cunningham (145) and Nick Kliewer (152) all securing pins. Williams, Phillips, Cunningham and Kliewer all won their matches in under a minute, Kliewer’s 56-second pin of Hunter Wilkinson giving Apex a 37-6 lead.
“Gabe (Baragona) beat a guy in Montoya who is from a wrestling family, he did a really good job,” Little said. “Blake, Dalton and Joey, that’s the solid part of my lineup. They wrestled well.”
Another noteworthy victory for Apex included Brian Tirgrath’s first varsity victory, that coming via a 12-8 decision over Freddy Hernandez-Mora at 138 in the most exciting match of the night.
Tirgrath took a 10-8 lead with an escape with 40 seconds remaining in the third period, then blocked a double-leg takedown attempt by Hernandez-Mora with 10 seconds left that would have tied it before getting a takedown in the closing seconds of the match.
Aside from Emberland, Friendship’s other victory came at 220 where John Cascone grinded out a 4-1 decision over Lucan Ruckle.
Friendship coach Kyle Baird knows success isn’t going to come overnight for his program.
“I’ve got a bunch of coachable kids, that’s a good thing,” Baird said. “And they’re all fighters, they all want to go after it. They understand where we’re at, we just have to take it a step at a time.”