03/18/05 — Wood enjoys unforgettable season

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Wood enjoys unforgettable season

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 18, 2005 2:09 PM

PIKEVILLE -- This figured to be a vintage season -- as good as any in memory -- for the Charles B. Aycock wrestling team.

Turner Wood made it unforgettable.

The soft-spoken and modest senior quietly observed the actions of his predecessors and applied that knowledge the first time he stepped onto the mat. His unparralled success, particularly three Class 3-A eastern regional individual titles, has undoubtedly set the standard for future Golden Falcon grapplers.

But the accolades don't stop there.

Turner Wood

News-Argus/Rudy Coggins

Charles B. Aycock senior Turner Wood

Wood emerged the first-ever wrestler in Eastern Carolina Conference history to finish unbeaten in regular-season and tournament play. He earned an unprecedented four ECC titles to go along with four seasons of all-conference recognition. A member of the program's Century Club (100+ wins), Wood is just Aycock's third wrestler to qualify for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Individual Championships all four seasons.

Wood unwillingly settled for second place in the state finals and captured all-state honors. He joined an elite group including teammate John Robertson, former teammate Ryan Batts and Jon Hooks.

"Turner is honestly the mold that we would like to shape all of our wrestlers into," veteran Aycock coach Kevin Smith said. "He truly represents the finest that high school athletics has to offer. He is an exceptional student and dependable leader on top of the fact that he is a great wrestler.

"He is active in every aspect of student life at Aycock, not just athletics. That is what truly makes him special."

Wood is, hands down, the 2004-05 News-Argus Wrestler of the Year.

Finalists for the award were Eastern Wayne freshman Chris Tesar; and Rosewood's senior duo of Ramsey Brown and Michael Sander.

"In four years of coaching Turner, I cannot remember a single time that I felt he didn't give me everything he had," Smith said. "There was never a question of whether or not we would get one-hundred percent out of him during a match."

Wood's discipline came from football. An outstanding linebacker, he carried that relentless workman-like attitude onto the mat and helped Aycock nearly achieve the ultimate prize -- a state dual-team title. The Golden Falcons finally exorcised the demons they encountered against arch-rival West Carteret this season. They suffered a heart-breaking and gut-wrenching defeat against Hillsborough Orange in the eastern finals.

During his final three seasons, Aycock lost just five dual matches.

"Turner's contribution to this program is so much more than even his phenonemal career stats can illustrate," Smith said. "Words cannot describe how much we are going to miss his presence in the (wrestling) room every day next year. One thing is for sure, however.

"Whatever Turner does in his adult life, he will be a resounding success at it ... that's just the type of kid he is."

Wood almost didn't try out for wrestling.

With encouragement from Robertson, his football mate and coach Smith, Wood decided to give it a try.

"It was weird because this is so different from any other sport," Wood said. "Obviously, I had no idea what it was about ... really didn't know anything. I guess it was a matter of just getting out there and rolling around."

Once Wood adjusted -- pardon the cliche -- he took like a duck to water. He adapted to the conditioning regimen necessary to handle six-minute matches. He mastered the techniques and implemented offensive/defensive moves he picked up during summer camps.

Wins weren't frequent his freshman year, but he did enough to qualify for the NCHSAA Championships -- the first of four consecutive trips. But Wood's confidence grew and he began enjoying tremendous success on the mat.

Wrestling soon became a vital part of Wood's athletic career.

"I didn't know how big of a deal it was to qualify and do what I did as a freshman," Wood said. "I had a lot more confidence coming back."

Wood sharpened his skills as a sophomore and again, fared well at the state tournament. His junior season didn't mirror his first two campaigns and Wood felt a little disappointed with his effort.

He made sure the pattern didn't repeat itself his senior year.

Using last year as a wake-up call, Wood returned focused and never lost sight of his goals. He seized his 100th career victory during the highly-competitive Cary News Invitational in mid-December. He continued his astonishing march through the ECC and didn't lose a match during the dual-team playoffs.

The East's No. 1 seed in the 16-man state bracket, Wood experienced little difficulty and cruised into the finals against Southwestern Randolph's Jeremy Perdue. Wood hoped he could hand the Midwest champion his second defeat of the season.

"States were really fun this year compared to last year," Wood said. "Being in the parade (of champions) was fun. (While) listening to the national anthem, I knew this was going to be my last match.

"I had that match exactly like I planned it, except for that first takedown. From there, it went on down. I could wrestle him 10 times again and probably beat him once."

Wood added that individual matches probably carried more pressure than tension-filled dual matches. During those tight dual contests Wood sat on the sidelines or jumped rope. He silently thought about where pins were needed to secure the win.

Despite experiencing that anxiety, he always found a way to calm Smith and assistant coach Mark Bass. Sometimes he offered a word of encouragement, but mostly he just winked -- giving the coaching staff the notion he had things under control.

Wood did.

His stats back up his confidence, but it's his integrity that carried him to within six minutes of becoming the program's first-ever state champion.

"You always have that dream of getting that ring on your finger," Wood said. "I never thought I'd come as close as I did, either way. Looking back, you always want one more year.

"I feel like I did as good as I could. It's not the way I wanted to leave, but everything worked out perfect until that last match."

It was vintage Wood.