Mathews Cruz-Cruz had one of the biggest wins in Cleveland school history on Saturday. But host Corinth Holders continued to be snake bitten against Rocky Mount.
Cruz-Cruz, a junior, was named most outstanding wrestler of the Jolly Roger Invitational after winning the 126-pound championship over Rocky Mount’s Wilson Smith, the top-ranked wrestler in the state, 9-5 in overtime.
And that result actually helped Cleveland’s Johnston county rival Corinth Holders, but not enough.
Rocky Mount won the team championship with 133.5 points to the Pirates’ 131.5, two weeks to the day after the Gryphons had squeaked by Corinth Holders by just one point in the Falcon Invitational at Pikeville C.B. Aycock.
Clayton finished in fourth place with 88 points, while Cleveland scored 64 to finish 10th and Smithfield-Selma 13 for 11th in the 11-team meet.
“You don’t want to put your fate in someone else’s hands, but that’s what we were facing at the end,” Corinth Holders coach Kristian Stewart said. “We came in kind of wounded, missing some big hitters at 113 (Jordan Hadding) and 126 (Austin Palmer). They would have made a big difference.
“But overall it was a good day. It takes a lot of work to put on these tournaments. We’re just trying to get ready for the big deal at regionals.”
Cruz-Cruz, who usually wrestles at 132, is 31-0 this season and set the individual school record for consecutive wins with the victory in the title match.
“I knew (Smith) was good at upper-body,” said Cruz-Cruz, who had two pins during the event. “I’ve been wrestling upper-body with my coach the whole time, so I was prepared for it.
“I was calm going into overtime. I didn’t let the (two) stalling points get to me.”
Added Cleveland coach Kenny Watkins, “Cruz’s win was a high point for us, but we struggled early as a team. Finishing 10th place is not normal for us.”
Wrestlers from the Two Rivers 3A were in eight of the 14 individual finals, winning half of those bouts.
Corinth Holders’ Luke Turner topped Clayton’s Chad Sprouse 6-1 at 170.
“This was our second time wrestling each other this year,” said the senior Turner (25-4), who earned two pins in the tournament. “He beat me last time at the Orange County tournament by one point, so I knew he was good, but I also knew I had a chance. I just had to come out there full-force and do what I had to do to win.”
Clayton got consecutive wins, as Claude King topped Rocky Mount’s Tyler Brown 7-1 at 138 and the Comets’ Trevor Loken pinned Southern Nash’s Clinton Whitaker in 1:31 at 145.
“I feel pretty good about this tournament,” said King (26-10), who is headed to Hampton University in the fall. “I’ve been implementing the things my coach has been teaching me and making sure to stay focused, not worrying about who I’m wrestling and things like that.”
Said Loken (34-7), who had three pins in the tournament after missing most of the 2013-14 season with a broken arm, “That match was tough. (Whitaker) is strong, but I just knew I had to get in there and wrestle my best.”
But Triton’s Hunter Johnson pinned the Pirates’ Austin Ellis in 1:25 at 160, Southern Nash’s Diego Salazar topped Corinth Holders’ Dillion Barton 7-4 at 195, Southern Nash’s Ryan Ashley beat the Pirates’ Elliote Lindley 11-1 at 220 and Topsail’s Joe Sculthorpe pinned Corinth Holders’ Frankie Miller in 1:13 at heavyweight.
Clayton coach Corey Daker said that with two first-place finishes the Comets had a good day.
“We did pretty well,” Daken said. “But our main focus is on regionals. Claude was pretty impressive and he’s only been wrestling 14 months.”
Rocky Mount went 0-4 in its championship matches, but earned the winning points in the last match in progress when heavyweight Tycen Hunter beat Southern Nash’s Kendrick Watson 7-2.
“I guess we had a little fire under us,” Rocky Mount coach Jermaine Jones said. “I knew it was close and we needed to win the last match, so I really had to coach and scream and yell. But (Hunter) needed that, since he had already lost to (Watson) once this season.”