Garner Cleveland: Sports

Seven Johnston County wrestlers qualify for state championships

Jason Gonzales (front) of Corinth Holders finds himself in an odd position against Malik Abney of Triton during the 3A Individual Wrestling Regionals at Rocky Mount.
Jason Gonzales (front) of Corinth Holders finds himself in an odd position against Malik Abney of Triton during the 3A Individual Wrestling Regionals at Rocky Mount.

Darius Dunn and Jhavonte Moon left no doubt as to the identity of the best wrestler in their respective weight classes Sunday in the 3A eastern regional. The two champions – both winners by pinfall – led a group of seven Johnston County wrestlers who earned bids to this week’s state championships in Winston-Salem.

Dunn, a 113-pounder from Corinth Holders, Moon, a 145-pounder from Cleveland, will both be joined by a pair of teammates at the state tournament: Cameron Brewer and Jason Gonzales for Dunn and Matthews Cruz-Cruz and Chanse Wallace for Cleveland.

Moon dominated Rocky Mount’s Rahshaun Elliott in their 145-pound title bout but didn’t get his pin until just nine seconds remained in the match.

“The tournament went very well,” Moon said. “I felt like I was in control in every one of my matches. (The championship match) was tough, that guy’s a good wrestler, almost had me off of my feet, but I was able to stay on my feet and eventually get the pin.”

Senior Tyler Talley of Smithfield-Selma also qualified for the state finals, which run Thursday through Saturday.

Dunn (44-1 this season) defended his regional championship with a pin of Swansboro’s Bryan Mol 70 seconds into the second period.

“I just keep everything out of my mind when I’m out there on the mat,” Dunn said. “It’s all about doing whatever I can to get a win. I don’t feel like I really know what I’m doing while I’m doing it, I just go by instinct.”

Dunn had three pinfall wins and a 12-3 decision in the regional. He will try to improve on last year’s fourth place finish in the state.

“Darius probably has the hardest path to a state championship, with who I think is the best wrestler in the state in his weight class (two-time defending champ Mitchell Langford of North Henderson),” said Corinth Holders coach Eric Wischhusen. “He will have to wrestle his absolute best, but if anybody can do it, Darius can.”

Havelock’s Ryan Davis downed Brewer in their 138-pound championship match, 4-2. Brewer will take a 40-8 record into the state championships.

Wallace took third at 182 pounds and Cruz-Cruz was fourth at 126.

“Chanse became a three-time state qualifier,” Riley said. “He made a mistake early in the quarterfinals and it cost him the match but he wrestled back, earned another trip to the state finals.

“Cruz-Cruz wrestled really well (Saturday), took a tough one-point loss in the semifinals.”

Talley, in just his third year of wrestling, won three straight elimination bouts to earn his state championship ticket.

The Rams missed out on another likely state qualifier if not another regional championship when defending 132-pound regional champ Derrick Applewhite suffered a broken arm in his semifinal match with eventual regional champ Jacob Butler of Swansboro. Applewhite was unable to continue in the tournament but finishes his career with 138 career victories, a school record at Cleveland.