Orange sophomore wrestler Jamar Davis studied the scoreboard anxiously as Northwood twice rallied from deficits in six of the final seven weight classes to take a lead with one match remaining.
That weight class was his at 170 pounds with the Panthers trailing by two points Wednesday at Northwood’s gym.
Nelson suddenly had Orange’s history of dominating the Big 8 3A Conference on his shoulders, and he responded with a 14-4 decision to clinch a 38-36 team victory.
Asked to explain his veteran composure as a first-year varsity wrestler under such pressure, he said: “I guess it’s all the people I wrestle with in practice. We work hard.”
Northwood prepared hard, too. The No. 12-ranked Chargers (8-3, 0-1) felt ready for the No. 2 Panthers (15-0, 1-0), jumping out to a 12-0 lead with two pins in the first two matches. The Chargers’ Michael Queen led off at 182 pounds with a fall in 1:59.
“I was excited to start the match,” Queen said. “I wanted to get a pin and set the tone for the team early. I wanted to get my match over as quickly as possible.”
Teammate John Dunning responded to the momentum with a pin at 195 in 3:44 for a 12-0 lead, but then Orange was the first to take a turn at a comeback.
The Panthers benefitted from a forfeit at 220 and then avoided what otherwise would have been the turning point in favor of Northwood. Orange heavyweight Daylen Austin was nearly pinned in the first-period, but he recovered to win by a fall in the second period in 2:27.
“I knew I couldn’t get pinned and just tried to survive the first period,” Austin said. “The second period I wanted to stay on my feet and hand fight before I went for his legs. I couldn’t lose after they took out our first two guys.”
For a while it didn’t seem that crucial. His win was followed by four more as Orange built a 28-12 lead.
Northwood’s comeback started with decisions from Ian Anderson (126) and Carson Amy (132) and pins from Lorenzo LaManna (138), Jonathan Mazurek (145) and Hunter Queen (160) for the Chargers’ 36-34 lead.
Orange coach Bobby Shriner was confident in Davis. His father Tracy Davis was his college teammate at North Carolina.
“Northwood has some tough kids,” Shriner said. “This match was a battle.”