High School Sports

Holly Springs wrestling clinches SWAC title again

Holly Springs wrestling clinched its second straight Southwest Wake Athletic Conference dual-team title on Thursday in defeating Panther Creek 62-6. The unbeaten Golden Hawks have just one conference match left and have head-to-head wins over Athens Drive, the only SWAC team that can tie them.

Holly Springs also won the now-defunct conference tournament in 2013, giving this year’s senior class three conference-related team titles to claim.

The achievement is a nice feather in the cap for first-year coach Nick Nosbisch, but it’s not the end goal, especially for seniors such as Travian Cooke, who have much to look forward to in the coming weeks. Next week concludes regular season, followed by one week for the dual-team tournament before individual regionals begin the following Saturday.

“You get to that part of the season where one mistake means you lose. You go home,” Cooke said. “For a lot of us, it’s our last shot to do it.”

Holly Springs (22-0, 6-0) put away the Catamounts by winning half of the match’s closest bouts.

Cooke, a state runner-up last year, defeated Matt Stober 13-5. Stober is a returning state qualifier who has spent much of this season dealing with injury.

“The key for me was sticking to the things I do best,” Cooke said. “I’m an offensive wrestler, so sticking to offense, pushing the pace, not getting late in the third period and using all six minutes to my advantage (was key).”

The Hawks moved Josh Richardson up to 195 to battle and defeat Panther Creek’s Ryan Callahan 10-9.

Caleb Benton (132 pounds), Lawton Bullock (140) and C.J. Toogood (heavyweight) each won by forfeit.

The rest of Holly Springs’ winners were Aaron Flaherty (120 pounds, pin at 0:59), Joe Meyers (126, 9-1), Cam Devers (145, 17-3), Matt Lusher (182, pin at 0:49), Shane Newman (220, pin at 2:39), Daniel Meyers (106, 23-7) and Hunter Morton (113, pin at 1:42).

“I’m proud of our kids. We knew coming in it was going to be an intense match,” Nosbisch said. “We’re excited to be conference champs. It’s one of our goals every year.”

Cooke hopes the torch of conference champs that his class helped wrestle away from Cary over the past two seasons will be carried on by the next group of wrestlers. Leaving a legacy is important to him, he said.

“The younger guys will need to step it up,” Cooke said. “We’re graduating a lot of seniors this year, and I want to continue to see this program succeed. Because it’s not just about these three years, but it’s about what happens after we’re gone – how I affect these guys’ lives who will still be here later.”

Panther Creek (12-6, 4-2) had two winners on the night.

Miles Kent, a 150-pounder, edged Nick Connochie in a 3-2 victory while Chad Laska won 6-3 at 160.

“I just told the guys to go out there and wrestle the matches for themselves,” Panther Creek coach Chad Sichak said. “We had five or six starters out of the lineup. It was going to be a tall order to win that match because of how many guys we were missing.”

The Catamounts now have the head-to-head edge on Cary for third place in the SWAC, but that could change if Cary defeats Athens Drive in the season finale next week. A three-way tie is possible with no way to break it except a random draw.

While Cary (23-3) and Athens Drive (25-2) have good enough overall marks to make it into the postseason if they don’t get the league’s No. 2 automatic spot, Panther Creek isn’t as well-off. Whether that works out for Panther Creek is almost secondary to getting back the starters who hope to make noise in the state’s individual tournament.

“We’re just worried about getting everyone healthy and ready for regionals and states right now,” Sichak said.