02/20/04 — State wrestlers going for gold

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State wrestlers going for gold

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 20, 2004 1:55 PM

WINSTON-SALEM -- Any athlete fantasizes throughout their prep career about completing their dream by having a gold medal draped around their neck, proclaiming them a state champion.

Some get more than one opportunity to experience that thrill.

Others get their chances, but come up short.

Beginning today, 672 wrestlers start their two-day journey toward finding gold in the 2004 N.C. High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Just 42 will emerge a state champion once the 1,218 matches have been contested in all three classifications -- 1-A/2-A, 3-A and 4-A -- combined.

A contingent of 28 wrestlers from News-Argus coverage schools are making the trip. More than half are first-time qualifiers who will experience the opportunity to compete before some 8,000-plus fans in one of the southeast's top athletic venues.

Eastern Wayne head coach Mike Brown is taking four qualifiers -- his son David, Joey Burridge, Travis Turner and Tyler Sasser. Brown expected those four to finish the season against the state's best competition.

"It's been a long year; my worst year as a coach, but I'm carrying more kids to the state than I've ever taken before," Brown said. "So, it's the worst season and the best season at the same time.

"It's a new experience for all of them, but luckily Tyler has wrestled AAU and been to a big tournament before. I hope he's not in awe. The rest of them know their goals as underclassmen were to make it to states. I want them to wrestle to the best of their ability and have fun."

Sasser is one of 15 competitors, including four among the 3-A ranks, who enter the tournament unbeaten. Sasser puts his 27-0 mark on the line against Evan Roche of Jay Robinson, who finished fourth in the Midwest regional, in the opening round.

"Tyler has a legitimate shot at placing high or winning it," Brown said. "His goal is to actually be in the top two."

Should Sasser emerge a state champion, he will be the county's first since 1992, when Southern Wayne's Larry James claimed the 4-A title at 112 pounds. He will also become just the second title-holder in Eastern Wayne history since 1987 when Nick Smith was crowned the 119-pound champ.

While Sasser sees a fourth seed, each of his teammates battle against a regional champion in their respective first-round matches.

Burridge, a sophomore 135-pounder, goes up against Mideast kingpin Marlon Lopez of Greensboro Dudley. Turner, whose older brother Cedric finished second in last year's state meet, is matched up against Mideast champion Bo Ashford of Triton at 189. David Brown battles Midwest champ Johnny Striblin of Southwestern Randolph in the 171-pound class.

"Hopefully, they'll all place," coach Brown said.

Charles B. Aycock is taking the county's largest group -- 11 qualifiers, which breaks the old school record of nine set two years ago. Seven are first-time visitors to the state championships -- Derek Lancaster (103), Greg Coudriet (119), Ronald Lynn (135), Randy Meisenhelder (145), Tim Harrison (152), Lacardra Mitchell (215) and heavyweight Dustin Gurley.

They're joined by teammates Luan Tran (130), Blake Brockmeyer (140), John Robertson (171) and Turner Wood (189).

Wood claimed his second regional title last weekend at White Oak. Robertson earned his first-ever regional crown and became the eighth CBA wrestler in school history to accomplish the feat.

"When the coaches and I looked at the (regional) brackets (last) Thursday, we all agreed that John had possibly the toughest bracket in the tournament," Golden Falcons coach Kevin Smith said. "Every match that John wrestled was against a wrestler who had a legitimate shot to qualify. He wrestled solidly all day.

"One of John's goals this year was to be a regional champion. I am very glad to see him get to mark one more accomplishment off his list."

Robertson defeated long-time rival Stephen Witt of Southern Wayne in the finals.

Wood's toughest match occurred against White Oak's Chad Baker in the semifinals. Wood survived the stern challenge and knocked off the Saints' Reggie Faire in the regional final.

Coudriet erased the bittersweet memories of his sophomore season when he stumbled in regional competition at West Craven. The junior rebounded well this time and ended up second, which satisfied one of his preseason objectives.

"Greg's biggest area of improvement this year has been his strength," Smith said. "He spent the entire fall training at a local gym. Most coaches comment that he is a much more physical wrestler than he was last year; the added strength has been a big part of that change.

"I am very proud of Greg. He has set a very positive example of the importance of camps and personal commitment in becoming a great wrestler."

Here are Aycock's first-round matches:

* 103 -- Lancaster vs. John Crisp (Mooresville);

* 119 -- Coudriet vs. Jake Haynes (Morehead);

* 130 -- Tran vs. Joey Gladson (SE Guilford);

* 135 -- Lynn vs. Michael House (Clayton);

* 140 -- Brockmeyer vs. Paul Gabby (SW Randolph);

* 145 -- Meisenhelder vs. Ross Scallan (Ragsdale);

* 152 -- Harrison vs. Kevin Anthony (Carver);

* 171 -- Robertson vs. Michael Carter (Piedmont);

* 189 -- Wood vs. Nick Hoover (SW Guilford);

* 215 -- Mitchell vs. Benjamin Robinson (Concord);

* Hwt -- Gurley vs. Jordan Wall (E. Randolph).

Southern Wayne will be represented well with seven qualifiers -- Jonathan McKinney (112), Thomas Mosshammer (130), Mastafa Springston (140), Kevin Hash (145), Stephen Witt (171), Reggie Faire (189) and Paul Robinson. McKinney, Hash and Faire are making their first trips to Winston-Salem.

Robinson took fourth at heavyweight last season, but enters this tournament with a better draw. The senior finally prevailed as the East regional champion and received favorable positioning in the top half of the bracket. He faces Jimmy Martin of North Iredell in the first round.

Mosshammer, who finished a surprising sixth at last year's state championships, opposes Nick Jenkins of West Rowan. Springston takes on Brandon Dewitt, who helped Ragsdale capture its first-ever NCHSAA 3-A dual-team title on Feb. 7.

Hash meets Danny Hendry of Jay Robinson. Witt's first-round opponent is Billy Graham of Southeast Guilford. Faire's first-round match is against Zeb Moore of Northeast Guilford.

Rosewood is pinning its medal hopes on four grapplers -- Ramsey Brown (103), Alan Corbett (145), Aaron Lynch (152) and heavyweight Clayton Taylor. Corbett and Taylor are first-time qualifiers.

"Ramsey is in a great position; wrestling exactly where we want him," Rosewood coach Bill Edmundson said. "His position in the bracket is definitely in our favor. He has had some tough matches at 112, practices with 145-pounders, so I think he is ready to compete with the best the state has to offer."

Should Brown pull through and reach the final round in the 1-A/2-A ranks, he'll become the fourth medalist in Edmundson's 12-year tenure. Bob Cooke is the highest finisher with a runner-up showing two years ago. Rayco Kornegay and Ryan DeCarlo each finished fourth.

Corbett has not shied away from the competition this season and has extended his opponents to the full six minutes in numerous matches. The longer Corbett stays on the mat, the more favorable the outcome because he doesn't tire out easily. He waits for that one mistake and capitalizes, which has led to 42 victories this year.

Lynch could see some familiar races on his trek through the 152-pound class. Meanwhile, Taylor has a tough first-round opponent, two-time defending state champion Quincey Talley of Southern Vance.

"Clayton continues a long line of successful state-qualifying heavyweights," Edmundson said. "I know what Clayton is capable of and if Talley overlooks Clayton, he could be in for a rude awakening."

The Eagles are also taking six table workers, who are probably the most important group of participants in the two-day event. Back for their second year are Ashley Brown, Shannon Sprinkle, Jackie Edmundson, Kristen Nelson, Summer Turnage and Sandy Barber. They'll be responsible for running the scoreboard and marking scoresheets.

"These young ladies have worked every tournament we have wrestled in this year," coach Edmundson said. "I can't say enough about their dedication to the team and the sacrifices they have made."

Spring Creek and Greene Central will also have representation in the 1-A/2-A tournament.

Wes Denham is the Gators' first-ever state qualifier after placing third in last weekend's regional at Elizabeth City Northeastern. A sophomore, Denham challenges Swannanoa Owen's Kyle Hood, who lost his first match of the season in the West regional final last week.

Greene Central junior Jimmy Edmonds qualified third from the East and faces Chaz Truesdale of High Point Andrews. Truesdale is 25-5 and the Mideast regional runner-up.

The NCHSAA has been offering a championship in wrestling since the 1930s. This is the 18th year that the individual tournament has been broken down into classifications. Prior to 1987, all wrestlers -- regardless of the size of the school -- competed for a single title.

Defending team champions in the tournament are Cary (4-A), East Gaston (3-A) and High Point Andrews (1-A/2-A).

Opening-round matches started at 9 o'clock this morning. The championship gets under way at 6 p.m. Saturday with a "Parade of Champions."