MOUNT AIRY — After a successful regular season, the Starmount Rams wrestling team travelled to Mount Airy on Tuesday night to compete in the first two rounds of the NCHSAA 1A dual-team state playoffs.
The Mount Airy Granite Bears were the highest seed and held a first-round bye in what amounted to a tri-meet with South Stokes and Starmount, who wrestled each other first, with the winner earning the right to wrestle Mount Airy. The Rams beat the Sauras 42-36 in the opener, which lasted only about a half-hour and ended with Starmount forfeiting several weight classes at the end after gaining an insurmountable lead. In the nightcap, the Bears won 37-24 in a match that concluded with two weight classes remaining.
Mount Airy (26-7) clinched the team victory at 152 pounds, where Chris Butera scored a third-period pin against Lucas Zamora with just 23 seconds left. The win extended the Bears’ lead to 37-18, and meant that even if Starmount won the last two weight classes by pin, it couldn’t catch up. As it turned out, Mount Airy forfeited at 160 and 170 was recorded as a double forfeit, with no points for either team.
The showdown between the Bears and the Rams was a rematch of a meet which had taken place back on Nov. 25 at West Stokes’ Turkey Duals. Mount Airy had won that one 42-30, but both teams had several wrestlers out for various reasons, and much more was at stake on Tuesday.
The teams opened at 182, where John Bennett was once again facing Starmount’s Dawson Nixon, who he’d decisioned 3-0 earlier this year. This time, he probably never worked harder to get three team points. Bennett scored a first-period takedown, only to see Nixon tie him when he opened down and scored a reversal in the second. Nixon was down again in the third, but made a bid for victory when he tried to escape with about 20 seconds to go. Bennett held him and they went to overtime, where he just missed a takedown at the end of the minute of sudden death. He finally got it done in a 30-second second OT, then rode out Nixon in a second 30-second period for the 4-2 win.
Eric Olvera gave the Bears a 9-0 lead when he scored a pin in just 72 seconds against Jake Groce, but the Rams answered with two victories of their own. At 220, Caleb Money had Mount Airy’s Kristian Porter in trouble a number of times, but Porter fought off every attempt to pin him and the match ended as a 9-2 point decision. At 285, Antonio Lopez did pin Nate Kiebler, and Starmount pulled even at 9-9 on the team scoreboard as the teams went back to the top of the order.
The Bears quickly regained the lead at 15-9 when Barron Pilson scored a first-period pin over Mikey Ramos at 106. They extended their lead to 18-9 with a second overtime win, this time with Trevin Robinson fighting back from an 8-6 deficit in the third period with a penalty point and an escape against Quinn Moran. In overtime, he scored a reversal and claimed a 10-8 victory.
Starmount got six quick points when 120-pounder Devin Wood scored a first-period pin over Daniel Troutman, who was wrestling up two weight classes, but that was as close as the Rams were getting. In the 126-pound match, Daniel Olvera pinned Kekoa Brown after 1:14 of the first period for a 24-15 Mount Airy lead. Things were beginning to look grim for the visitors, and they got worse at 132, where Matthew Gilley held a 7-0 lead on Luis Sandoval, who’d pinned him back in November, after the first period. Both wrestlers rode out the other in the last two periods with no additional scoring, but now the Bears led by a dozen with just five weight classes left.
At 138 pounds, Joan Ramirez controlled his match against Sterlin Holbrook and finished with a flourish, scoring a three-point near-fall in the final seconds to win 10-2 and add four more points to the Bears’ team tally, at 31-15. The Rams finally stopped the bleeding at 145, where Joshua Pardue held off Armando Estrada for a 4-2 decision that closed the gap to 31-18.
Any kind of victory for Butera at 152 meant the Bears would advance, and he scored a first-period takedown and held that 2-0 lead going to the third period. In the final frame, he opened down, made an escape and then scored another takedown to lead 5-0. It looked like he’d settle for the decision, but then kept attacking and finally got the pin with 23 seconds left on the clock.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.