Until junior Nash Philbeck arrived in Greensboro last weekend, the last time Broughton had an N.C. High School Athletic Association wrestling champion was 19 years earlier, when Justin Smith won in 1998.
Philbeck (34-4) won the 4A 145-pound title by a 12-9 score and defeated Diavantae Reddick from Greensboro’s Ben L. Smith not far removed from falling to Reddick in the regular season.
Philbeck, now 98-22 in his career, made the jump from not having placed in the championships to winning it all against a wrestler who was 48-2 entering the match. He credited his coach – Stan Chambers, who coaches club and was a longtime assistant at Cary and head coach at Cardinal Gibbons – and his conditioning.
“I just worked year-round. Conditioning has everything to do with it,” Philbeck said. “I got more in shape, worked really hard and I won.”
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Under Chambers, Broughton had its strongest showing ever. Braxton May-Nicholson was sixth at 152 and Christian Hite fourth at 160.
Philbeck was Wake County’s only champ but far from its only success story.
Cary takes 4th: Cary was fourth in the 4A standings.
“We were hoping we could push for the title this year, but we really needed a couple more guys in the final, if not two or three or four more in the finals to make it work,” coach Taylor Cummings said.
Cary freshman Kobe Early (46-1) lost 6-2 to Marcelino Aponte III of Cape Fear in the 4A 106-pound title match. Aponte was a senior who had lost just two matches in two years, but Early got the first takedown of the match.
“Kobe’s going to be back here a couple more times if not three more times in the future,” Cummings said. “Love the kid to death and super proud to have him on the team. We’re going to be hearing about him a lot more for three years straight. So you can’t be disappointed in the moment.”
Cary’s Nate Kinsey lost to the eventual state champ in the 152-pound semifinals, then won the third-place match to end the year with just one loss. Cummings credited Kinsey for leading the team through offseason workouts.
Teammate Delante Robinson wrestled back from falling in the quarterfinals to take third in 145 pounds, while Joe Grena was fourth at 170.
Brooks comes up 2nd: Cardinal Gibbons’ Jalen Brooks (32-5) was runner-up in the 4A 220 match, falling 2-1 to Independence’s Xavier Lenear. Close matches were nothing new for the sophomore, who transferred in from North Raleigh Christian Academy.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone to more ultimate overtimes with anyone in my career than with that kid,” coach Jon Armfield said.
Armfield only sees things getting better from here for Brooks.
“This kid’s a really, really special kid,” Armfield said. “He’s got a big upside.”
More placers, parity: As wrestling grows in Wake County, there are no limits to which schools may come up with a state placer. Though the runs at dual and regional and state tournament team titles are still spearheaded by Cary and Holly Springs, parity abounds.
Holly Springs placed 100 percent of its Hunters: Hunter Morton (fifth, 138) and Hunter Yost (fifth, 160).
Athens Drive seniors Youssef Aitboulahri (third, 182) and Faris Busisou (sixth, 126) helped turn around the program in their four years.
Apex found the podium in fifth place with Joey McMahon (152) and Connor Castagnero (182).
Heritage, which lost defending champ Anthony Brito earlier in the year with injury, placed Sheriff Njie fourth at 152.
Leesville Road’s Dan Mills was fourth at 132 to represent the Cap-8 champs.
Wake Forest’s Jack Malone was fourth at 195 to round out nine different schools with at least one placer.