Wednesday night turned out to be a positive one for spreading the sport of wrestling in Johnston County as Cleveland hosted Neuse Charter, an up and coming program, and South Johnston, a program without a lot of recent success, in a tri-match wrestling meet.
Before it was all said and done, the Rams took home a pair of convincing victories, defeating the Cougars 75-6 and the Trojans 69-12. South Johnston earned the win in the other match of the night, a significant 45-36 triumph over Neuse Charter.
“We came out with the mentality tonight that we wanted to win 84-0, 84-0.” Cleveland coach Kenneth Watkins said. “Our guys did a good job buying into that. It was just a great night overall.”
Quinton Ross got the ball rolling in the nightcap against the Trojans earning a first period pin over Eddie Glenn in the 182-pound weight class.
It became a trend as Richie Alvarado (113), Jakob Cox (152), Matthew Cruz-Cruz (138), Chris Gilmartin (195), Zachary Lejnar (145) and Donald Sugg (170) all registered pinfalls in the first period of their respective matches.
In a back-and-forth contest at 120, Cleveland’s Noah Youngs pinned Tyler Messer midway through the third period after owning a slim 13-12 advantage after the first two rounds.
Leo Berber wore down Graham Swanson but had to settle for a 5-2 decision at 160.
The Rams’ Adam Morrison and David Spencer were the beneficiaries of forfeits in their divisions while the Trojans’ Katherine Mendez was unopposed at 126 to grab six points for South Johnston.
Four-year grappler Donovan Guignard was the only Trojan to earn points inside of the circle as he pinned Cleveland’s Larry Watson in one minute in the heavyweight division.
“Donovan Guignard is one of our two four-year seniors,” said first-year South Johnston coach Kyle Stevens. “He was a regional qualifier last year. He comes out, he works really hard and is a leader.”
Guignard also earned an 8-5 decision over Neuse Charter’s Tristan Wellons in the evening’s first contest. Junior Connor Peacock registered a pin in the second period of his match at 220 and Graham Swanson similarly pinned his opponent at 160 to help propel South Johnston to its first dual-team win in several years.
Glenn, Tyler Messer, Dariel Nelson, Michael Stickland and Zachary Stutts are earned wins for the Trojans via forfeits.
“That was this program’s first win in seven or eight years,” Stevens said, citing how important the victory was to upperclassmen Eddie Glenn, Donovan Guignard and Connor Peacock. “They were just excited to get enough guys to get all the matches in and getting to compete and having their points count towards a team victory.”
Jimmy Cuccurello, Gabe Fonseca, Alex Gonzalez and Robert James Will all posted pins for the Cougars.
In addition to the three different matchups, 16 preliminary matches were held which allowed for some of the more inexperienced wrestlers a chance to get some work on the mat.
South Johnston boasts 18 freshmen on its roster, all of which have wrestled for no more than one week, and Neuse Charter’s program is in its third year of existence.
As for the Rams (8-3), Watkins already likes what he sees.
“This team is improving every week in leaps in bounds,” said Watkins. “We have strong leadership in (Cruz-Cruz), we have a couple seniors up in our heavier weight classes, we’ve got a lot of sophomores in the lineup who are finding their way quickly so we have a good mix. I like where we are right now.”