Though the experience as a whole wasn’t quite to Cary wrestling coach Taylor Cummings’ liking, Senior Night wasn’t a complete loss for the Imps on Wednesday.
After a surprising loss to Panther Creek in the opener, 36-28, Cary rebounded for a 53-16 victory over Fuquay-Varina in the nightcap that secured a runner-up finish in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference and automatic berth into the NCHSAA 4A Dual Team Championships that will begin on Tuesday.
“The first match against Panther Creek dictated that we had wrestle it all the way out vs. Fuquay-Varina,” Cummings said. “Frankly, we didn’t look ready as a team against Panther Creek and I’m not quite sure what it was.
“It was certainly a night to forget for the first match, it’s unfortunate on Senior Night, but the second match we turned it around and wrestled stronger with a bit more fire. Hopefully we can hold onto that fire by the time we draw our opponent for our match on Tuesday.”
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Cary (21-6, 7-2) had little trouble with Fuquay-Varina, winning 10 of 14 matches. Roderick Perry (285 pounds), Ethan Mendel (113), Cymek Shaw (120), reigning state 4A champion Kollin Wade (145), Nate Kinsey (152), and Troy Madden (160) all won by fall for Cary, while Alex Zuniga prevailed against Josh Arrington in the marquee individual bout of the night at 170 pounds.
Zuniga, the top-ranked 170-pounder in the state in 4A, eked out a 1-0 decision over the eighth-ranked Arrington, the difference an escape by Zuniga early in the second period.
The Cary senior missed last year’s state 4A tournament with a concussion and is eager to make amends for the lost opportunity.
“I can’t sleep at night, I’m so excited for it, I’m ready for it,” said Zuniga, before adding with a chuckle. “I’ve been training all year, I’ve been training all summer, training at night, training in my sleep. I can’t wait.”
In the opener, it was Panther Creek pulling off a surprise against Cary for the second straight year, the Catamounts having defeated Cary, 41-25, in last season’s SWAC opener.
Panther Creek won eight of the first 10 matches to build a 33-10 lead, then clinched the victory two matches with Miles Kent’s 3-1 decision over Nate Kinsey at 152.
The key victory for Panther Creek came at 106, where Duncan Baldwin won a wild bout against Uriel Perez that featured stalling calls against both wrestlers, Baldwin eventually pulling out the win in overtime when he blocked a pair of Perez takedown attempts before taking down Perez and turning him on his back for an 11-6 win.
“They have been starting to wrestle tougher and tougher as the season has gone on,” Panther Creek coach Chad Sichak said of his team. “(Baldwin), that was all guts, he hasn’t wrestled in a couple of weeks because he was hurt. He’ll do anything for the team, he was out of shape and his shoulder was killing him but he wanted to do it for our team.”
Also pulling out close victories for Panther Creek were Jon Pattishall, a 5-3 winner over Nico Childs at 195, and Avhinaw Dhital, a 4-2 winner over Quinn Dunphy at 132.