Voting for the conference’s Wrestler of the Year honor had taken place prior to Saturday’s Two Rivers 3A Conference tournament, but Western Harnett’s Mason Morris did his part to prove the coaches had made the right choice.
Morris pinned Corinth Holders’ Zack McAllister in 32 seconds to win the 132-pound title, part of a impressive performance by host Western Harnett in which nine Eagles won individual titles.
Also capturing individual titles for Western Harnett were Trevor Wicker (106 pounds), Anthony Thompson (113), Khamani Holmes (126), Jacob Dawson (138), Carl Smith (145), Jordan Guimont (152), Aidan Keenan-Gray (160), and Michael Starks (285) as the Eagles added the Two Rivers 3A tournament title to go with their regular-season crown.
Morris, a senior, is ranked fifth in the state in 3A at 132 yet remarkably had never won a Two Rivers 3A tournament title. Last year, he lost to Corinth Holders’ Nate Palmer, 6-4, in the 120 final.
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He barely broke a sweat in securing that elusive title on Saturday. Morris took down McAllister in the early moments of the 132 final and used a half-nelson to secure the pin.
“The key this year has been (my work) in the wrestling room,” Morris said. “Not slacking off, working hard. I know if I just keep pushing it in the room, success will come.”
Morris was one of seven titlists for Western Harnett to win by pin. The exceptions were Guimont and Holmes, though Guimont may have been the most impressive winner among the Eagles’ champions.
In a showdown of state-ranked 152-pounders, fifth-ranked Guimont won by technical fall, 18-3, in 4:23 over 11th-ranked Jakob Cox of Cleveland. Guimont took a 5-0 lead with a three-point nearfall in the waning moments of the first period, then had three takedowns in the second period to build a big lead before finishing off Cox in the third period.
“My confidence is up,” Guimont said. “I haven’t wrestled the guys above me (in the rankings) yet, but it helps my confidence.
“I knew (Cox) was ranked, and I hadn’t wrestled him but I wasn’t worry about because I had seen him wrestle and already knew his style.”
Holmes was a 14-3 winner over Cleveland’s Chandler Daughtry in the 126 final. Holmes broke a 2-all tie with a reversal midway through the second period, eventually taking control with a pair of three-point nearfalls in the third period.
Western Harnett coach Casey Gashaw – who was named Two Rivers 3A Coach of the Year – acknowledged the regular-season conference title carried greater significance but was pleased with his team’s performance on Saturday, particularly the effort of Guimont.
“(Guimont) is peaking at the right time, a lot of our kids are peaking at the right time,” Gashaw said. “For the seniors, it’s very important, some of these kids will never step on the mat again after this year, so to finish this season strong is really important for them.”
Nearly all of Saturday’s championship matches were devoid of drama, most of them lopsided affairs.
One exception, though, was the 182 final between Corinth Holders’ Noah Vasquez and Cleveland’s Quinton Ross.
Vasquez, who had pinned Ross in under a minute when the two met earlier this season, was in command for much of the match, building a 6-2 after a takedown with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining in the third period.
However, Ross got an escape and a quick takedown to draw within 6-5 with just under a minute to go.
After letting Vasquez go, Ross made a bid for a takedown in the closing seconds that would have forced overtime, but Vasquez did a good job of maintaining his balance on Ross’s single-leg grab, staying on his feet and holding on for a 7-5 decision.
“I wrestled as hard as possible,” Vasquez said, admitting he had not practiced all week due to a sprained MCL. “I was trying to protect myself and not get hurt, obviously.”
Other wrestlers to win Two Rivers 3A individual titles were Cleveland’s Christop McIver (120) and Trevor Bryant (195), Triton’s Hunter Johnson (170), and Corinth Holders’ Larry Williams (220).
Western Harnett finished with 142.5 points, well ahead of defending champion Corinth Holders’ 97-point tally. Cleveland (89) was third, followed by Triton (58), South Johnston (44), and Smithfield-Selma (22).
Two Rivers 3A tournament standings
1. Western Harnett 142.5
2. Corinth Holders 97
3. Cleveland 89
4. Triton 58
5. South Johnston 44
6. Smithfield-Selma 22