Knightdale wrestler Brandon Skinner broke from custom upon receiving his 170-pound gold medal at the Greater Neuse River Conference finals Saturday in East Wake High’s gym.
High school kids are known to stand stoically atop the medal stand for photos, but Skinner broke into a big smile and scrunched down in a sportsmanship gesture to wrap his arms around the shoulders of runner-up Chad Sprouse of Clayton and third-place medalist Brett Huggler of East Wake for a group pose.
He likely would have done the same with his twin brother, but Bradley Skinner’s turn atop the medal stand had to wait until the 182-pound ceremony.
The senior identical twin brothers were named the co-wrestlers of the year in the Greater Neuse after they both won their second straight conference individual titles. Bradley also was named the most outstanding heavyweight for the finals. For Brandon, it was his third conference title after also winning as a freshman.
The Skinners, who are both committed to Campbell, were regional runners-up a year ago and Brandon finished fifth at the state meet.
“My dad (Michael) was wrestler in high school and the Marine Corps, and when we were about 2 we just naturally were wrestling around with him,” Brandon said. “We started wrestling together at practices when we were 4.”
Bradley’s natural body weight is about five pounds heavier than Brandon, which accounts for him wrestling at the heavier weight. But that means he often has to match his brother’s success. He was pacing alongside the mat as Brandon wrapped up his 3-1 decision.
“There’s good and bad pressure with it,” said Bradley, who won by a 5-2 decision. “He sets the example and then I feel I have to follow in his footsteps.”
One advantage: They’re workout partners.
“We always want to do better and get better,” Brandon said. “Anytime we make mistakes we can give each other pointers and try to improve.”
The Skinners were two of four Knightdale individual champions. Junior Charles Pumba-Ibana won at 126 pounds and junior Hunter McClelland at 195.
Clayton added the conference team title to the dual meet crown the Comets claimed in the regular season. Clayton coach Cory Daker was named the coach of the year for his rebuilding program that resulted in the Comets’ first conference title in 10 years.
“We worked hard all summer for this goal,” said junior Nick Brown, a team captain who won at 132 pounds by a 6-4 decision. “This means a lot. We wouldn’t have won without coach pushing us.”
Clayton’s other five champions among the 14 weight classes were freshman Nolan Short, 106; senior Claude King, 138; junior Trevor Loken, 145; senior Gabe Tackels, 152; and junior Michael Lines, 160.
Garner junior Mason Crawford was named the most outstanding lightweight with his win at 113.
Host East Wake had two winners with sophomore Khadeem Dublin at 120 and junior Zack Willard at heavyweight.
West Johnston had one individual champion with sophomore Johnny Rose at 220.