Chants of “Let’s go Spencer!” bellowed down on Holly Springs senior wrestler Spencer Wilson during a two-minute final period that felt like a lifetime to Golden Hawks fans as they anxiously awaited a spot in their first state championship.
When Wilson looked up at the end of it, he saw a 5-3 win on the scoreboard and jubilation in those stands that feverishly belted out his name.
After defeating Laney 26-25 Thursday, Holly Springs is going to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A dual-team wrestling championship Saturday, where the Golden Hawks (40-4) will travel to West Forsyth (53-0).
“The pressure was really starting to get to my head,” Wilson said. “Without (the encouragement) I would let it get to my head; that it was all I had, that I had nothing left. But when I heard my teammates, it really pushed me to keep trying.”
“It was a joy I’ve never felt in wrestling.”
Going against a previously undefeated Laney High (32-1) out of Wilmington for the East final, the Golden Hawks needed to wrestle almost perfect, and they did.
Hunter Morton (126 pounds) won 4-2 in overtime and Zion Cooke (182) won 11-9 in OT.
“We knew we had to not give up bonus (points) and I think starting at the bottom (weights) helped us out a lot because we were able to build our lead and trade off,” Holly Springs coach Nick Nosbisch said.
The Bucs and Golden Hawks traded wins through seven bouts, with Laney leading 13-9. Holly Springs’ winners were Josh Lehr (113 pounds, 9-2 score), Morton and Cam Devers (138, 4-3).
Devers, ranked No. 1 in the state, had just beaten No. 2 Nick Mutio of Wake Forest and trailed No. 3 David Bostian 3-0 until he got a takdeown and two back points on a move with just more than a minute to go.
“I knew coming into today I was going to face guys that I was going to see in the state tournament,” Devers said. “I’m not too proud of my performance in those matches, I knew I should have wrestled better but that’s why we have two weeks left until the state tournament.”
Wilson’s heroics were set up by Holly Springs’ Elijah Geniesse winning 11-6 at 152 pounds followed by Nick Connochie 13-4 at 160, Hunter Yost 13-1 at 170 and Cooke’s overtime win. Holly Springs forfeited the final bouts at 220 and 285.
“Spencer’s a four-year wrestler and you’ve got to have confidence going into that,” Nosbisch said. “I knew if he wrestled smart and like he could, we’d be all right. Getting that first takedown was big.”
West Forsyth is a new name in the N.C. wrestling world, but their coach’s name is not. Maurice Atwood led Winston-Salem’s Parkland High to eight straight dual-team titles from 2007-14 and racked up more than 300 straight wins before taking over the Titans’ program last season.
The night started with two undefeated teams and two Wake County squads.
Holly Springs ousted Wake Forest 41-33, a match the Golden Hawks led 41-9 before forfeiting the final four weight classes, and Laney got a second-period pin in the final bout to win 31-30 against host Jack Britt (13-1) of Fayetteville.
Britt was the defending 4A champ and had won the past three East finals.
Heavyweight Darius Hodge of Wake Forest (19-5) had the first pin against Holly Springs (30-4), but the Golden Hawks’ Sean McLane (106) and Josh Lehr (113) pinned the next two to take a 12-6 lead. Aaron Wilkie (120) won a wild 20-17 match against Stewart Walter to go up 15-6, followed by Cameron Lindsey’s 2-1 victory at 126.
The rest was all Holly Springs, which had pins from Jake Maroney (132), Nigel Lucas (145) and Elijah Geniesse (152), a tech fall from Hunter Yost (160) and a 4-3 decision by the state’s top 138-pounder Cam Devers over No. 2 Mutio.
“Nick did a great job. He was on the attack the whole match and he never let down,” said second-year head coach Ed Mutio. “It was a great match to see.”
Wake Forest’s Sander Cypher, Sam Spruill, Jeremiah Rodriquez and Joshua Cathcart picked up the forfeit wins.
“I’m proud of the boys. I had no idea they would come this far. They wrestled tough up to this point,” coach Mutio said. “Today we were a little flat and we’ve got some work to do before the state tournament, but I’m really realy proud overall with the season and how we ended up.”