In getting to its first N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A dual-team wrestling championship match, Holly Springs came up with big wins in important moments.
But trying to do the same against the state’s newest powerhouse, West Forsyth – which has 11 wrestlers ranked in the 4A top ten of their respective weight classes on retrorankings.com – was too much to ask.
West Forsyth claimed its first NCHSAA 4A title with a 57-10 win, taking 11 of 14 weight classes in the process to end the year 54-0. It’s Titans coach Maurice Atwood’s ninth dual-team title, the first in his two seasons since leaving Winston-Salem’s Parkland High.
Coming in, the Golden Hawks (40-5) won their first-round match by taking the lead late, the second round came down to the final bout and the 4A East title came with two bouts to go.
“We had a heck of a run in the dual-team playoffs and our guys wrestled well the whole tournament,” Holly Springs coach Nick Nosbisch said. “We had to win down on bottom and score early, but we lost some toss-up matches in the middle.”
The match started in the 113-pound weight class, which was favorable to the Golden Hawks, whose top wrestlers are in the middle and lower weights.
No. 2-ranked Josh Lehr got the Golden Hawks off to a good start with a 6-1 win against Michael Barrera.
But West Forsyth roared ahead as No. 2 120-pounder Ethan Hnasko won 17-1 against Aaron Wilkie, No. 7 126-pounder Trevor O’Brien won 4-0 against Hunter Morton (who moved up from 120 pounds, where he’s No. 9 in the state) and unranked Branson Draper delivered a big blow with a pin in 1:07 against Jake Maroney.
Holly Springs’ undefeated and No. 1-ranked 138-pounder Cam Devers got the Hawks back into it with a dominating 17-4 win against No. 6 Javon Boozer. West Forsyth’s lead was then 14-7.
“He’s always looking to dominate and score points. I think that’s what sets (Devers) apart,” Nosbisch said.
Back-to-back pins – No. 3 Dejonte Horne (145 pounds) on Nigel Lucas at 2:53 and No. 10 Nathan Brewer (152) on Ed Callahan in 2:19 – and an 11-2 win by No. 4 Keon Mucklevene (160) against Hunter Yost gave the Titans a 30-7.
Holly Springs senior Nick Connochie, ranked No. 2 at 152 but moved up two weight classes for the dual, defeated Dallas Mize 3-2.
Both 182-pound wrestlers had moved up from 170, where No. 8 Sean Foster bested Holly Springs’ No. 9 Zion Cooke 5-3.
West Forsyth clinched the match with Jeffrey Golden pinning senior Spencer Wilson at 195 pounds in 1:20 to take a 39-10 lead with three weight classes to go. Wilson was the Hawks’ NCHSAA sportsmanship winner.
West Forsyth finished the match with three more pins: Patrick Harding (No. 3 220) in 1:09 against Justin Smith, Elvis Banks (No. 4 285) against Matthew Nordberg in 48 seconds and MVP Chase Eller (No. 3 106) in 3:34 against Sean McLane.
Holly Springs was overmatched, but Nosbisch can take solace in knowing he’ll return 10 of his 14 wrestlers. Elijah Geniesse, the No. 7 160-pounder who missed the match with injury, Devers, Wilson and Connochie are the Hawks’ only seniors.
“We’ve got seven kids in the starting lineup that are freshmen and sophomores so we’re going to keep getting better. This isn’t the type of situation where you want to come in and take second, but our guys are going to use this as motivation,” Nosbisch said.
“Four years ago we took a (30-27) loss to Cary and after that we took regionals and we’ve been steamrolling ever since. We’ve just got to learn from this experience and get better.”
Other titles: Newton-Conover defeated Dixon 34-25 for the 2A title... Eden’s Morehead High defeated Enka High from Candler, N.C. for the 3A title 39-30... Rosewood, led by MVP Timothy Decatur-Luker, won its first crown 36-24 against two-time defending 1A champ Mitchell County.