Riverside peaked at the right time last season and advanced all the way to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A dual-team East final before falling to eventual state champion Jack Britt out of Fayetteville.
But the Pirates will have to start new this year under coach Brandon Palmer, a former star wrestler at the school. Gone are state champions Jaquon Sowell (a two-time champ) and Gary Whitaker and all four state qualifiers. The graduation losses likely mean this year in the Triangle will be much like the last – filled with parity.
Last year’s final N&O top 15
1. Riverside (24-5): The Pirates will rely on sophomore Ryan Greenblatt and juniors Noah Jacobs and Asante Boler.
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2. Holly Springs (26-1): The Golden Hawks are led by senior Cam Devers, who went 47-3 at 138 pounds and was runner-up for the 4A title. Holly Springs returns three other state qualifiers: Daniel Meyers (106 pounds last season), senior Nick Connochie (152) and senior Elijah Geniesse (160).
3. Orange (26-2): The Panthers bring back three of their four state qualifiers: sophomore Bailey Hawkins (113), senior Gonzalo Garcia Contoral (132) and senior Joe Scott (138). Scott was fourth in 3A.
4. Cary (31-4): Kollin Wade is the reigning state champ at 145 pounds and went 40-2 overall. The Imps also return regional champs Reid Stewart (113), a junior who was sixth in 4A, and senior 285-pounder Rod Perry.
5. Athens Drive (27-4): Coming off a school-record 27 wins, the Jaguars return just one state qualifier – Faris Busisou (113), a junior.
6. Chatham Central (24-7): The 1A state power Bears were second in the dual-team and team tournament championships. They return state champ Nick Daggett, a junior, went 41-1 last year at 106 pounds. Junior Sam Azar (152) was also a regional champ while senior Tre Edwards (132) was a state qualifier.
7. Carrboro (18-5): The Jaguars bring back two wrestlers from last year’s podium: Dante Veltri, fourth in 2A at 120 pounds, and Trenton Davis (145), sixth. Heavyweight regional champ Magnus Herweyer, a senior, also returns with state qualifiers Otto Wolin (106) and Emmanuel Oquaye (220).
8. South Granville (33-4): Nathean Castillo, a senior, went 50-2 overall and finished third in 2A. The Vikings have three other regional champs returning – junior Bryce Talley (145), senior Austin Higgs (160) and senior Tyler Bunts (170) – plus state qualifier Alexie Hernandez (132). Talley was fourth in 2A.
9. Chapel Hill (20-10): The Tigers were a solid dual-team squad but have just one returning state qualifier – senior Camden Bergey (170).
10: Union Pines (14-6): The deck is stacked with returning regional champs Antonio Menozi (113), a junior who was fifth in 3A, and seniors Daniel Hull (120) and Dylan Barber (126). Adam Hoover (106), Regan Fedowitz (132), also fifth in 3A and Garrett Jefferson (220) were all state qualifiers.
11. Leesville Road (36-12): The Pride, which tied Millbrook and Sanderson for a the Cap-8 Conference title, returns junior Daniel Mills (126) and senior Cole Collins (132) as state qualifiers.
12. Millbrook (19-4): Senior Crayton Saby (113) is the lone state qualifier returning.
13. Sanderson (12-5): Sophomore Benjamin DeRose (106) is the lone state qualifier returning.
14. Corinth Holders (15-1): The Two Rivers 3A Conference champs bring back regional champ Cameron Smith (160), a junior.
15. Ravenscroft (23-6): The Ravens were third in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament. Seniors Blake Sanders (126) and D.J. Washington (220) were runners-up.
Other teams to watch
Bunn (13-4): The Wildcats return state qualifiers in junior Tyler Fetterolf (120), senior Ralph Davis (182) and junior Omar Rosa (285).
Clayton (11-3): The Greater Neuse River Conference champions return two state qualifiers – sophomore Nick Brown (132) and senior Trevor Loken (145).
Cleveland (13-7): Rams senior Mathews Cruz-Cruz went 42-1, his one loss coming in the 3A 132-pound championship bout.
Franklinton (14-12): The Red Rams return five state qualifiers: sophomore Dalton White (106), who was fourth in 2A, senior Alex Lowry (132), senior Reuben Santiago (145), senior Jacob Coats (152) and senior Devin Younger (160).
N.C. Science and Math (7-5): Caleb Cox, a senior, was runner-up in 2A at 126 pounds. Senior Dylan Millson was fourth at 152 pounds.
Northern Durham (12-12): Senior Demazio Samuel was third in 4A at 195 pounds.
Northwood (19-7): Junior Hunter Queen went 50-7 overall and finished third in 3A, while senior John Dunning was sixth at 195 pounds. The Chargers also bring back senior Ian Anderson, (126) and senior Michael Queen (182) from last year’s state tournament.
Panther Creek (15-6): The Catamounts bring back senior Miles Kent (152) and senior Chad Laska (160) as state qualifiers.
Wake Forest (9-8): The Cougars return Nick Mutio, a senior who went 41-1 and was third in the 120-pound 4A class – his only loss was an injury forfeit in the state tournament. Junior Joey Hannum was the Mideast regional champ at 106 pounds. Sander Cypher, a junior, was a state qualifier at 145 pounds.
Western Harnett (14-8): The Eagles return all four of their state qualifiers: sophomore Trevor Wicker (103), senior Anthony Thompson, (113), senior Mason Morris (120) and senior Jordan Guimont (152).
Other wrestlers to watch
Shemar Brandon, Sr., Southern Durham: Fifth in 3A at 152 pounds.
Anthony Brito, Jr., Heritage: Was fifth in 4A at 126 pounds.
Damonte Blash, Sr., Southern Vance: Was regional champ and fourth in 2A at 132 pounds.
Michael Daughtry, Sr., Princeton: The 132-pounder was a regional champ.
Ronald Whitt, Jr., Voyager Academy: Was regional champ at 113 pounds.