The Carrboro Jaguars did everything they could to capture their first N.C. High School Athletic Association wrestling championship Saturday, but it just wasn’t meant to be as they fell to reigning 2A dual-team champion Newton-Conover 32-28 at Northwood High School.
The match had been moved to Northwood because of the water main break affecting Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
“Every one of my guys went out and battled,” Carrboro coach DeWitt Driscoll said. “The shortcomings that kept us from coming out on top was this was our first time being in this environment. Newton-Conover has been here a lot, and they know what to expect.”
Carrboro had plenty of strong individual performances but lacked the depth of Newton-Conover, which entered the dual championships with nearly twice as many wrestlers and could pick who wrestled where based on the match-up.
The match went back-and-forth from the start. Newton-Conover jumped out to a 6-0 lead on back-to-back decisions by Benjamin Benson at 160 pounds and Andy Henze at 170.
It looked like the Red Devils would go up 9-0, but Curtis Selby had other ideas. Trailing 4-0 with 30 seconds left, Selby scored two quick takedowns to send the match into overtime, where he scored another takedown in the opening seconds to secure the decision victory and put Carrboro on the board.
“We had to win one of those first three matches,” Driscoll said. “Matteo (Fulgheri, 160) and Anjani (Murdaugh, 170) came up a little short, they wrestled a little tight and didn’t take the short points. But Curtis came up huge for us. He has some of the most heart of anyone I’ve coached.”
Mark Chaid put Carrboro up 9-6 with a late second period pin after dominating the first period, but Newton-Conover responded with a decision 220.
The two teams traded pins at 285 and 106 to keep things even. Carrboro heavyweight Emanuel Oquaye made short work of Robert Deese, winning in 26 seconds, while Louise Monnet fell in 40 seconds to N-C’s Mitch Glover.
Newton-Conover rolled after Glover’s pin to wins in the next two matches, taking a 25-15 lead. First, Spenser Harris dominated in a major decision over Victor Monnet, and then Jayden Kimsey pinned A.J. Jackson early in the second period.
Trailing 25-15 with five matches remaining and having lost three straight, Carrboro wouldn’t go away. Otto Wolin took an 8-2 decision that was mired in controversy as the referees awarded Wolin two points after the first period concluded and two more for a late second period takedown, much to the dismay of Newton-Conover coach Ed Clark.
In the following bout, Quincey Monday pinned Luke Canrobert, and Taylor Day used his power double to win a major decision over Xaeden Vixaysak.
With two bouts left, Carrboro led 28-25.
That’s when Newton-Conover proved why it has won this tournament four out of the last five years.
William Gaither shut out Akin Dunston, 9-0, to put Newton-Conover up 29-28, and Joshua Nichols, a freshman who was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament, defeated David Veltri with two takedowns and a near fall in the first two periods. Veltri tried to mount a comeback in the third period, but Nichols held off his relentless pressure.
Driscoll was dejected after the loss, but remains focused on the ultimate goal: The upcoming state tournament in Greensboro, which is based on individual performances.
“I want us to use this as fuel, get us refocused and re-energized,” said Driscoll said. “And use that to take into regionals and ultimately take as many as we can to states.”