Garner Cleveland: Sports

West Johnston wins GNRC team title; Skinner twins pace Knightdale

West Johnston’s Bobby Crutchfield (at right) tries to control Southeast Raleigh’s Darius Washington in their 138-pound weight class match.
West Johnston’s Bobby Crutchfield (at right) tries to control Southeast Raleigh’s Darius Washington in their 138-pound weight class match.

Two-and-a-half minutes into his 170-pound match with Clayton’s Chad Sprouse, Knightdale junior Brandon Skinner pinned his opponent to the mat. Less than two minutes later, his twin brother Bradley had won his 182-pound match in identical fashion.

The Skinner twins aren’t usually far apart. On Saturday, a season’s worth of brotherly sparring culminated in a pair of first-place finishes in the Greater Neuse River 4A wrestling tournament, as well as a Most Outstanding Wrestler honor for Brandon.

“They’re all business when they step on the mat,” Knightdale head coach Kenny Watkins said of the Skinner brothers. “We have a motto: this isn’t a leisure trip, it’s a business trip. They kind of take it to heart.”

Watkins’ Knights finished second in team points to West Johnston, who featured six of the tournament’s 14 first-place wrestlers. Tony Jimenez—the Wildcats’ 106-pound champion and the conference’s Wrestler of the Year—was the only wrestler not named Skinner to record a pin in the tournament’s final round.

The Knights, who were tangled with Harnett Central in a race for second place, counted heavily upon the efforts of its two most dominant wrestlers. After Knightdale’s Bobby Samuels earned a 7-1 victory in his 132-pound match, the Skinners knew what was needed of them.

“We had high expectations for them,” Watkins said after the tournament. “We needed them to take pins in the finals. That’s what we needed of them because we were in a dogfight to take second in the tournament.”

The Skinners delivered. Brandon’s pin of Sprouse came after 2:32 had elapsed, while Bradley’s pin of East Wake’s Markus Mayner occurred when the match was only 49 seconds old. Bradley, the agreed upon “bigger twin” who wrestles in a 12-pound heavier weight class, applauded his brother as he accepted the plaque awarded to the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.

“We practice each other and make each other stronger,” Bradley said when asked if he deserves any credit for his brother’s distinction.

“We would not be on as high of a competitive level without having a twin,” Brandon said. “He’s been my drill partner my whole life—I’ve been wrestling since I was four—and everyday I have someone my own size, my own age to help me get better.”

The Skinners accounted for two of Knightdale’s three victories in the final round, helping the Knights finish ahead of Garner, who was represented twice in finals victories, and the likes of Harnett Central, Clayton and Southeast Raleigh, each of whom featured just one first-place finisher.

Garner’s championships came from Mason Crawford at 113, in a 6-5 win over West’s Justin Lumpkin and Aschalew Teka at 120.

West Johnston’s Raheem Simmons won at 126, while teammate Bryan Crutchfield was a 7-0 victor against Southeast Raleigh’s Darius Washington at 138. Leo Barber (145) and George Nathaniel (145) kept the wins coming for the Wildcats.

Michael Lines gave Clayton a conference champion at 160.

Sam Campbell of West (220) and Southeast’s Josh Mack (285) rounded out the rundown of individual champions. Mack beat Knightdale’s Tyler Palochak 1-0 for his title.

Neither Rolesville nor East Wake, the tournament’s host team, had a wrestler win a weight class.

For the Skinner twins, the entire West Johnston squad and a handful of other medalists, the Greater Neuse River 4A wrestling tournament went particularly well.