Payton Wilson of Orange was beside himself with anxiety when it appeared his state title dream and undefeated season were gone in a blink of four seconds on Saturday at the N.C. High School Athletic Association wrestling championships.
Wilson, who finished the season 43-0, squared off with Dan Louba of Hickory Ridge in the 220-pound 3A finals in a bout with team title implications. After a scoreless first period, Louba chose bottom, cleared space on a sit-out to escape, then hit Wilson with a double-leg takedown. Wilson sat out for an escape and hit a double leg to tie it.
Feeling confident from his feet, Louba gave up an escape point to put Wilson in the neutral position to start the third period.
With 4 seconds left in the match, Louba had Wilson backing up and hit a double leg for what would have been a 5-4 win. With the Hickory Ridge and other fans yelling “2, 2, 2, 2” the referees held a lengthy discussion, after which they took the points away from Louba, and handed Wilson the 4-3 win to lusty boos.
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The mat girl said she had tapped the official when time ran out, but he didn’t feel it, so he didn’t stop the match when time expired.
The N&O video of the match’s final seconds confirms the buzzer sounding before the takedown had been awarded.
“Sitting back and thinking about it, he dominated the match, it seems like,” Orange coach Bobby Shriner said of his 24th state champion. “He backed up a little, but the time ran out ... I’m so thankful for the honest scorekeeper who saw it.”
Wilson is one of the top rising senior football players in the state, with offers from all over, including Alabama. He projects as a linebacker, though he also ran back five punts for touchdown last season.
“It’s awesome. Overwhelming,” Wilson said of winning a state championship.
But for a few nervous minutes he twisted in uncertainty.
“When they (first) handed him ‘2’ I was upset. But when he grabbed my legs I saw it was double zero (on the clock),” Wilson said. “(I thought) ‘I just lost the state championship,’ and I had it in the bag, and I thought it was gone.”
Wilson said he was afraid to circle with so few seconds left on the clock because he thought he had been warned for stalling and didn’t want to give up a penalty point to tie the match.
In the 3A 170-pound finals, J.C. Ciaramella of Marvin Ridge decisioned Josiah Ramirez of Orange 12-7.
Orange also placed Braden Homsey (fifth, 182) and Daylen Alston (sixth, 285) en route to the team title.