Cleveland and Corinth Holders have had a natural rivalry ever since the schools opened together in the fall of 2010.
And now that they’re both in the new Two Rivers 3A Conference, when they wrestle each other it’s even more meaningful.
With the rotation starting at 170 on Wednesday night, the Rams dominated the matches in the middle of the program, winning five of six in one stretch including four pins and claiming an important 43-24 victory.
Both teams are now 3-1 in conference action with Western Harnett, which topped Cleveland 38-37 in December, but fell to Corinth Holders 37-30 later that month. All three have one match left in the regular season, but all three are favored to win those matches.
And with only two direct dual team state playoff berths available, those qualifiers are expected to be determined by a drawing for the two playoff spots, Que Tucker, the deputy commissioner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, said Friday. There is a wild card berth available in the eastern bracket, which could come into play as well for all three teams.
The Rams improved to 10-6 overall, while the Pirates fell to 11-4. The teams are 3-3 in their all-time duals series.
Both coaches agreed that the three most likely even matches all went Cleveland’s way. Trevor Bryant beat Dillon Barton 7-4 at 195 pounds, Paul Mefford pinned Frankie Miller in 4:56 at 285, and sophomore Chris McIver improved to 7-17 on the season by dispatching Cody Hedrick in 34 seconds.
“I told (McIver) before he went out there ‘If you guys wrestle 10 times, you win five,’” said Scott Riley, who has been the Rams’ coach since the school opened. “Make one of your five tonight.
“He’s a light 106 and did a good job tonight. Trevor Bryant winning at 195 was big for us. And we moved our 220 (Mefford) up to 285 (and forfeited at 220) because we knew they had a freshman there. This has always been a pretty good rivalry. They have a solid program.”
Pirate coach Eric Wischhusen was just shaking his head at what might have been.
“I thought we could have won at 195, and heavyweight, and at 106,” Wischhusen said. “All three of those weight classes were in question and they won every one of them.
“Our season has been garbage. I’m not satisfied at all. My season goal was to win a conference championship and we failed at that tonight. Now we’ll see who wins at the conference tournament.”
The Rams recorded four pins to the Pirates’ two.
Along with the falls by Mefford and McIver, Mathews Cruz-Cruz stopped Corinth Holders’ David Price in 1:47 at 126, and Derrick Applewhite pinned Josue Mendez in 2:44 at 132.
“It was a pretty big win,” McIver said. “I was just able control what I was doing and keep him down. I felt great about being able to help the team.”
The Rams’ other wins were Adam Collins’ 11-4 victory over Jordan Hadding at 120, Emon Kizer’s 7-2 decision over Cameron Smith at 152, Chanse Wallace’s 15-5 romp over Dillon Brennan at 182 and Jhavonte Moon’s walkover at 145.
“I had to drop 12 pounds since Monday and I was gassed the whole time tonight,” the senior Wallace said. “I was all good with it, but I just need not to be gassed next time. I made weight by half a pound.”
Darius Dunn, who like Moon was a champion at the Pirates’ Jolly Roger Invitational on Saturday, stopped the Rams’ Cameron Marquess in 51 seconds at 113. And the Pirates’ Jason Gonzales pinned Cameron Pittman in 1:11 at 170.
“I just worked what I practiced on throughout the week,” said the senior Dunn, who improved to 33-1. “This one hurts, but it’s over. Now we just have to try to beat them at the tournament.”
Cameron Brewe topped Cleveland’s Josiah Evans 9-2 at 138, Luke Turner beat the Rams’ Tony Lynn 11-6 at 160, and the Pirates’ Chris Solano won in the forfeit at 220.