Like Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, or Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Orange and Morehead High in Eden wrestling somehow get paired up to the public’s satisfaction every year.
They’ve met in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A dual playoffs five consecutive years.
For all the excellence that both programs have achieved, none of the previous four playoff matches could be defined “dramatic.” That changed Tuesday night.
In front of a crowded, raucous crowd that included fans watching from the mat sitting Indian style, Morehead rallied from 12-0 down to defeat Orange 31-29. The entire match came down to the final individual bout at heavyweight, where Morehead’s George Blackstone defeated Orange sophomore Daylan Alston.
Following a scoreless first period, Alston started the second period with an early escape point, then secured a takedown to take a 3-0 lead. Blackstone responded with his own takedown, then sent the gym into a frenzy with three near falls points to finish the frame. Blackstone earned the final eight points to send Morehead into the third round for the fourth straight year.
Orange, winners of 14 consecutive conference championships, found itself in the unaccustomed role of underdog against Morehead (16-0). It was one they played to a hilt.
Orange 106-pounder Mitchell Askew stunned the gym into silence in the opening match, defeating Morehead’s Austin Hunt with a pin at :31 into overtime after the two battled to a 2-2 draw in regulation. Freshman Gavin Wiggins followed with a 6-0 victory at 113, while sophomore Bailey Hawkins won 3-1 over Marque Mills. Hawkins is 34-8 on the year.
“Dual meets are a momentum game, and Mitchell got the momentum going,” said Orange coach Bobby Shriner. “We just fell a little short. It was an impressive effort from our guys.”
Morehead’s Zane Hairston scored a pin at 126 to cut the Orange lead in half. Orange responded with Hakeem Jones scoring a technical fall at 132. After Orange got a 3-2 victory from Josiah Ramirez at 160 and a pin at 152 from Joe Scott, they led 26-15. Ben Bullins defeated Jamar Davis to narrow the game to 26-19, which led to.a pivotal 182 match where Will Dobbs was awarded a disqualification victory over Juan Torres after it was ruled that Torres had received too many stall warnings.
Morehead’s Anthony Harvey won in overtime at 195 when he scored a takedown on Shannon Thompson, which gave Morehead its first lead of the night. Payton Wilson gave Orange the lead back at 220 after a 6-2 victory over Cameron Sanders, which led to the heavyweight final.
Orange, which defeated Chapel Hill 53-20 in the first round, ends the season 25-3.