Wood, CBA successfully defend ECC tournament crowns
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 31, 2005 1:57 PM
WINTERVILLE -- Turner Wood blushed as his Charles B. Aycock teammates cheered and proud parents asked him to smile for the numerous cameras flashing in the South Central gym Saturday afternoon.
A bright gold medal draped against his blue uniform jacket, a modest Wood offered his best grin. He stepped off the podium and once the post-tournament ceremonies had concluded, camera-toting parents and friends searched for Woods again.
Such is the case when you conclude a record-setting career in conference competition. Wood never experienced defeat -- in regular-season or tournament play -- en route to his fourth consecutive Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference individual wrestling title.
Wood, now with 115 career victories, emerged the 189-pound champion and earned all-ECC honors for the fourth straight season. He helped the Golden Falcons successfully defend their team championship in commanding fashion against nemesis West Carteret.
Aycock collected an ECC tournament-record 222.5 points compared to 148.5 for the runner-up Patriots. It was the largest margin of victory in tournament play since the league's inception in 2001-02.
"In all my years of coaching and teaching, I have never found a better young man," Golden Falcons coach Kevin Smith said of Wood. "It is easy to overlook his career achievements because he isn't flashy, loud or boisterous. Turner goes about the business of winning with a humbleness and boyish attitude that is very rare in athletics today."
Wood is the first ECC wrestler to successfully preserve his No. 1 seed in tournament play each year. He's claimed all four titles by fall against wrestlers from Eastern Wayne (2002, 03), South Central (2004) and West Carteret (2005).
"Turner is exactly the type of wrestler coach (Mark) Bass and I wish every wrestler would imitate," Smith said. "He is truly the ideal (wrestler) that we want to continue to build our program upon."
While the Golden Falcons turned in their most-impressive tournament outing of the season, several fellow Wayne County grapplers refuse to sit in the shadows. Eastern Wayne achieved its pre-season goal of a third-place tournament finish with 78.5 points due to several strong performances.
Freshman Chris Tesar (103 pounds) picked up the Warriors' lone goal medal. Top-seeded Travis Turner endured just his second loss of the season and settled for silver at 171. Teammates Decarlos Jones (135), Joey Burridge (140), Timmy Brown (145) and Brian Lincoln (160) worked their way back through the consolation bracket to obtain bronze medals.
"I was pleased with everybody, except Travis," veteran Eastern Wayne coach Mike Brown said. "Him losing to John was definitely an upset after beating him twice this year. John stepped up and did what he had to do.
"Other than that, all the boys did well."
Eastern Wayne recorded its highest finish since a fourth-place effort in the inaugural ECC Championships in 2002.
Brown was named ECC coach of the year.
"That was a big surprise ... kind of floored me," Brown said. "Most of the time, the winning conference coach gets it."
Eastern Wayne finished 2-20 last year and calls flooded the school office to get Brown's team on their schedule this season. But a couple of transfers and off-season preparation paid dividends for the Warriors.
Southern Wayne ended up fifth with 60 points, but the Saints had four medalists among the 14 weight classes. Tristan Bass (119), Josh Richards (125) and Eric Futrell (135) each returned home with a silver medal.
Doni Wilkins captured the bronze with a dominating 11-0 showing against West Craven's Bryan Small in the third-place, 189-pound match. Fellow Saint Ryan Bragg wound up fourth at 160.
The trio of Wayne County schools combined to win 23 of the 42 available medals.
But the day belonged to Aycock.
The Golden Falcons set tournament and school records for individual champions (8) and all-conference selections (8). They tied West Carteret for total individual champions (20) and all-conference honorees (20).
"I think the most-telling aspect of how well we wrestled today are the finals matches," Smith said. "We had some very tough matchups in the finals, and won eight of them. I don't think any of us would have been happy to win only a few of those matchups.
"I think winning eight of 11 is a very telling sign of this team's continued maturity."
Aycock concluded the championship round 2-1 against head-to-head matchups involving county opponents, including John Robertson's 4-3 decision against the Warriors' Turner. Robertson notched career win No. 99 and goes for the century mark in next week's dual-team playoffs.
Smith's team posted a 3-2 mark against matches against West Carteret and recorded three combined wins against South Central and West Craven.
"John's match was huge," Smith said. "He had a very solid game plan going into that match, and executed it flawlessly. He has been waiting for the opportunity to wrestle Travis since their last matchup in early December.
"It is a beautiful thing when a kid works hard to achieve a goal, and is able to meet the challenge and fulfill that goal."
Smith applauded the focus and concentration of second-year grappler Tim Harrison, who prevailed at 152 pounds. Harrison (31-11) wrestled a near-flawless match and upended the Patriots' Jake Anfinson 8-4.
Brothers Derek and Bryant Lancaster seized gold medals at 112 and 130 pounds, respectively. Ngu Tran (119), Ronald Lynn (140) and Jason Steed (160) also returned home with individual crowns.
Smith cited Bryant Lancaster's maturity on the mat.
"Here is a young man who has wrestled a meat-grinder of a schedule in arguably the toughest weight class in wrestling, and leaves here today as a conference champion," Smith said. "His conference championship is the best example of how a tough, grueling schedule can pay big dividends at the end of the season.
"Records mean nothing compared to experience."
Senior Randy Meisenhelder wrestled toe-to-toe with Frankie Dennis at 145 pounds. Dennis eventually registered a second-period pin in their first meeting of the season.
Aycock and Eastern Wayne continue play next Tuesday in the N.C. High School Athletic Association dual-team playoffs at Pikeville. The Golden Falcons (13-1) oppose Big Eight North champion Wilson Hunt, while the Warriors (16-7) face Hertford County.
The winners wrestle the same evening for the sectional championship.
"Our journey is not complete and a letdown could spell disaster for our goals in the post-season," Smith said. "We are at the bottom of the mountain, not the top, and we have a lot of climbing to do if we want to reach the summit of high school athletics."
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