Wednesday’s wrestling tri-meet at Fuquay-Varina was a reminder of just how much the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference hierarchy can swing in only a year’s time.
Apex, which finished tied for last in the conference a year ago, flexed some muscle in sweeping wins over Athens Drive (53-27) and Fuquay-Varina (41-24).
Meanwhile, Athens Drive, fresh off a school-record 27 wins last season, picked up just its first conference win with a narrow 43-33 victory over Fuquay-Varina while the Bengals – which entered the week No. 15 in The N&O rankings – went 0-2 at home on senior night.
The much-improved Cougars (5-5, 3-2) scored nine pins on the night to outscore the opposition 94-51.
Abraham Fluentes (160 pounds) and Nick Cleaver (145) each tallied a pair of pins on the night while Jeremy Flynn (113) and Blake Williams (120) also won both of their matches for the Cougars.
“We’re getting there,” first-year Apex coach Ross Little said of his team’s progression. “We still have a young team and we’re still making a lot of young mistakes that we have to improve on. But I’m proud of my team. We fought hard when we had to and we won when we had to.”
The Cougars fought exceptionally hard against Athens Drive as Cleaver, Fluentes, Williams, Joey McMahon (138 pounds), Conner Castagnero (170) and Devon Jarod (285) all scored pins while Flynn added a technical fall.
“We still have a long way to go,” Little said. “I’m very particular. I want perfection on the mat. I don’t want to take shortcuts and that’s what we’re striving for – to be as perfect as we possibly can.”
Athens Drive: The Jaguars kicked off the night by earning their first conference win of the season. The night was a lesson in finishing though as Athens Drive held on to topple Fuquay-Varina despite dropping five of the final eight matches and were then unable to hold on to another early lead against Apex as the Cougars took seven of the final nine bouts.
Still, despite having only one senior in the lineup, the Jaguars (11-9, 1-5) showed plenty of bite as Solomon Cornish earned pins in each of his 152-pound matches while Jason Hurst went 2-0 with a pin at 132.
“Apex wrestled really well against us. We just didn’t match up well with them. We matched up more favorably against Fuquay and some of our better guys got some wins against Fuquay that helped us out tremendously,” first-year Jaguars coach Chris Martin said.
Hurst, Cornish, Jacob Moore (138 pounds), David Spalding (145), Yousef Aitboulahri (182) and DeShawn Jones (195) all contributed wins in the victory over the Bengals.
Fuquay-Varina: The Bengals (3-4, 1-3) stuck around in both matches and trailed Athens Drive 27-18 until a major decision and a pin put things out of reach. Against Apex, Fuquay-Varina trailed just 30-24 with three matches to go but watched the Cougars take all three to close things out.
Josh Arrington, the Bengals’ lone state qualifier from a year ago, made his presence known with a pair of pins at 170 pounds.
“We’re looking forward to some great things from him as the season goes on,” first-year Bengals coach Dustin Ducher said. “Same with John Royal. He’s been a joy to coach. And Hunter Therrien came back from being out for a week so we were pleased with his performance.
“We’ve got a lot of young faces, a lot of underclassmen in the lineup. Once these kids start to grasp some of the concepts then we’ll build off of that. Until then it’s just going out and getting experience.”
Christopher Smith (120 pounds), Sutton Patteron (160), Mohammad Husein (170) and Rebecca Green (113) all picked up wins in the match against Athens Drive while Harrington, Royal (220), Nicholas Cowell (152) and Jose Ibarra (138) were all victorious against Apex.