West Wilkes capped off an undefeated dual team season with an equally impressive showing at Saturday’s Mountain Valley Athletic Conference tournament, at East Wilkes, by bringing home half of the individual titles up for grabs.
West Wilkes also won the team title by a staggering 42-point margin over runner-up Ashe County, as well as Head Coach Kelly Nichols being named MVAC Coach of the Year.
The Blackhawks will travel to Lincolnton this evening to face Belmont South Point in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A dual team state playoffs. If they win their first round match, the Blackhawks would face the winner of Lincolnton versus Central Academy of Technology and Arts in the second round that same night. Both of those matches will be at Lincolnton High School.
“To bring 14 guys and have 11 all conference or all conference honorable mentions, is a good day for us,” said Nichols.
In addition, East Wilkes and Wilkes Central each won individual championships as Wilkes County accounted for nine of the 14 weight class championships in the tourney.
The finals began with Wilkes Central’s Tyler Holland facing off against Riley Shaw of West Wilkes in the 106 championship — their second matchup in five days.
Unlike Tuesday’s matchup, this one was decided early as Holland carried a 5-0 lead into the second period on the strength of a takedown and three near-fall points.
Holland doubled his lead in the second by scoring near-fall points twice to extend his lead to 10-0. Another takedown in the third and three more near fall points ended proceedings early as Holland cruised to a 15-0 tech fall victory and his first conference title. Holland extended his record to 33-1.
Wilkes Central Head Coach Mike McCann was thoroughly pleased with his team’s performance, placing seven in the championship and consolation finals and finishing just one point out of third place in the team standings.
“I think my kids came out and wrestled hard,” said McCann. “A few of the matches didn’t come out like we wanted but we placed seven guys so that’s a good day and I’m proud of them.”
Next up was West’s Uriel Frederico facing off against Nate Brown of Ashe County in the 113 final. The consolation final was an all-Wilkes County affair as Logan Bowlin faced off against Parker Wells of North Wilkes.
Frederico, a runner-up in 2019, was forced to go the distance but came out on top in 2020 with a 10-4 decision over Brown. Bowlin took third place with a second period pin over Wells.
Caleb Roland, whose season was in doubt when he broke his leg in early September, made quick work of Bryson Church from Alleghany with a first minute pin to capture his third MVAC championship, this time at 120 pounds. Daniel Ferguson of East Wilkes took third place.
At 126 pounds, East Wilkes’ Kole Lambert came up short against Trent Baker of Ashe County. West’s Branson Miller captured third place via a second-period pin of Starmount’s Cole Nixon.
The only weight class not to feature a Wilkes County wrestler in the final was 132 pounds where Wilkes Central’s Corben Call took third place.
West Wilkes’ Dylan Ball took the championship over Evan Wagoner of Alleghany via a first-period pin in the 138-pound weight class. Ball’s victory was more impressive as it was revealed in the awards ceremony that Wagoner had been voted the most valuable wrestler of the 2019-2020 regular season.
At 145 pounds, the most outstanding wrestler of the tournament, Riley Pruitt of Alleghany, won a 9-7 decision over Wilkes Central’s Tradin Allen, after defeating top seeded Austin Bauguess, of East Wilkes, in the semifinal by a 4-3 decision.
Robert Heater was another West wrestler to earn a conference championship in 2020 after finishing second in 2019. The senior defeated Ashe County’s Matthew Peterson via a third period pin while Cardinal Chandler Luffman won a 7-5 decision over Central’s Jordan Jarvis to finish third.
East Wilkes’ Dustin Blackburn repeated as conference champion in the 160-pound championship with a hard-fought 13-6 decision against West Wilkes’ John Shepherd.
After the match, East Wilkes Head Coach Marty Andrews praised his team’s efforts, especially Blackburn’s — the Cardinals’ lone champion.
The Cardinals will travel to Mitchell High School tonight to face the winner of the Mitchell County-Swain County first round matchup in the second round of the NCHSAA 1A dual team playoffs.
“I was really proud of (Blackburn) in getting that win. It was a hard fought match. Overall, we did pretty well today,” said Andrews. “We’re still battered up but we’re going to get ready for the playoffs Tuesday and then for regionals.”
Wilkes Central’s Nick Hartley came up just short in the 170-pound weight class, being bested by Dustin Rector of Alleghany.
At 182 pounds, Alex Roland became the fourth wrestler of the day from West Wilkes to follow up a second place finish in 2019 with a championship in this year’s tourney. Roland defeated Ashe’s Kabel Dillard with a last-second pin in the second period.
Garrett Shumate took home his second conference title with a forfeit victory at 195 pounds.
Dallas Rash took home the 220-pound crown by avenging some earlier defeats to Ashe’s Jaron Greer, with a 3-2 decision. Rash scored first with a second period escape to take a 1-0 lead heading into the decisive third period. Greer responded with an escape of his own to tie the match at 1-1 with 1:56 remaining.
Rash scored the winning points via a takedown with just 45 seconds remaining in the match as he rotated behind Greer as the duo fell out of bounds.
Greer quickly escaped but could not take down Rash in the final seconds as Rash added another championship to his resume’.
In the consolation match of 220 pounds, North’s Houston Faw pinned East’s Caleb Combs to capture third place.
In the final matches of the day, Patrick Vickers of North Wilkes finished in second at 285 pounds. while Gary Call of West Wilkes took home third.
North Wilkes was hit by the injury bug coming into the conference tourney, but Head Coach Jason Bowlin was still pleased with what he saw out of his wrestlers on Saturday.
“Overall we had an OK day. With the injuries we had I was pleased. We’re going to continue building for the future,” said Bowlin.
After the dual team playoffs conclude this week, regionals will take place on Feb. 14-15.
West Wilkes will host the 2A West regional in Millers Creek while North Wilkes and Wilkes Central will travel to North Davidson for the 2A Midwest regional. East Wilkes will travel to Mount Airy for the 1A West regional.