Voyager Academy's R.J. Whitt becomes school's first wrestling champ
Voyager Academy’s budding athletics program got its first N.C. High School Athletic Association championship last year when the boys basketball team came away with a 1A title.
On Saturday, the Vikings got their second individual champ in any sport and first top-three finish outside of hoops when Voyager took third and R.J. Whitt first in the N.C. High School Athletic Association wrestling championships. Whitt is the school’s first wrestling champ.
Whitt earned a 12-6 victory over River Griffith of Avery County, rallying from being down 6-1 in the first period.
“I was really nervous. I wasn’t ready at first. I was too distracted by the crowd,” he said.
Whitt escaped in the second period, then stopped Griffith’s single-leg shot, stepped over and forced Griffith to his back to narrow the score to 7-6. Starting neutral in the third period, Whitt used a head-and-arm hold and spun behind for a takedown, then used legs and a power half for three more back points.
He had a foggy memory of the five-point move in the second period that turned the tide.
“I like, blacked out. I was halfway aware,” Whitt said.
A little more than two weeks after making it to the 1A dual-team East regional final, Isaiah Bryant (126), Kyle Coward (132) and Irving Montgomery (160) each took third for Voyager.
Whitt, as well as the other seniors, left a mark on the program.
“It was a long road. We had to battle injury all year,” Voyager coach Andy Takla said. “He’s the toughest kid I know. After everything this year, and down in matches and always coming back, not worrying about who his opponent is ever, just went out there ready to battle every day.”