Match-ups in the Greater Neuse River Conference wrestling tournament fell pretty much according to seed as the No. 1 seed in each weight class reached the championship bout, winning 12 of 14 matches at Knightdale Saturday.
GNRC dual champion Clayton was the top team in the tournament with seven wrestlers taking top honors, while second-place Rolesville had four titles and East Wake, Southeast Raleigh and Knightdale each had one.
Clayton’s Joah Johns started the championships off right for the conference champs, getting the win at 106 pounds by pinning West Johnston’s Nick Garbarino with 36 seconds left in the first round.
Clayton also picked up wins with Christian Prescott at 113, Jayden Jones at 138, Nick Brown at 145, Trevor Loken at 152, Luke Foster at 170 and Mike Lines at 182. Lines was also named conference wrestler of the year.
For Clayton coach Cory Daker, GNRC Coach of the Year, it was a fun day for his team as they gear up for regionals in two weeks. He said he was pleased with the effort from his team as everyone wrestled well.
“We have a very good team,” said Clayton senior Nick Brown, who pinned Rolesville’s Mason Hunt in the 145-pound match. “This team is the most solid all-around team we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
For second-place Rolesville, this season has been a big step forward for the fledgling program, now in its third year. In the first year the Rams finished eighth, last year they were third and this year they took second and will wrestle in the dual playoffs next week.
Rolesville coach Michael Grether said he was very pleased to get eight guys in the finals.
“I challenged the guys,” he said. “I told them that life only gives you opportunities, you have to create your own success.”
Rolesville picked up conference titles from Brandon Acklin at 120, Matthew Mims at 126, Joseph Clevenger at 160 and Shauquan Richardson at 195. Knightdale earned its lone title at 132 pounds from Charles Pumbu, who was named Most Outstanding Wrestler for the lighter weights.
Southeast Raleigh’s Jerry Harper found redemption by winning the title at 220 pounds.
“It was a good accomplishment for me,” Harper said. “Last year I finished second so it feels good to come back and take first this year.”
Harper attributes this year’s success to putting in extra time in the weight room and working hard in practice. According to Bulldogs coach Michael Vassil, Harper has really dedicated himself this season going 14-4 overall (7-0 in GNRC) and scoring eight pins.
“I measure strength in two ways, the results and the effort,” Vassil said. “When it comes to all of the wrestlers within our program, they are all strong. When it comes to strength in results, it starts with senior Jerry Harper our 220-pounder.”
Probably the most exciting match of the day was saved for last as East Wake senior Zack Willard had to go into overtime to beat West Johnston’s Jonathan Rose 6-2 for the 285-pound title and earn the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award for the heavyweights.
“It was a crazy match,” said Willard who ended up with a nasty gash after biting his lower lip. “This was a rematch of a match we wrestled a couple of weeks ago. It was an exciting match, but very nerve-wracking.”
What made it even harder is that Willard and Rose are good friends off the mat. The two said they can’t speak to each other in the moments leading up to the match.
Clayton 208.5, Rolesville 195, West Johnston 115, East Wake 87, Southeast Raleigh 75, Harnett Central 56, Garner 52, Knightdale 35.