01/16/06 — Battle at Little Big Horn -- Warrior matmen rule competition

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Battle at Little Big Horn -- Warrior matmen rule competition

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 16, 2006 2:04 PM

Frustrated all season by top-three team finishes in several individual tournaments, Eastern Wayne finally ridded itself of the "first-place loser" tag Saturday evening.

Five grapplers seized gold medals helped Eastern Wayne earn supremacy in the inaugural Battle at Little Big Horn contested at New Hope. Coach Mike Brown's Warriors collected 190 points, which included seven medals overall.

County rival Southern Wayne, which faltered in the consolation rounds, placed second with 152 points. Josh Robinson's third-place effort at heavyweight helped prevented the Saints from dropping to third in the 12-team event.

Jacksonville grabbed third place with 149 points, followed by New Bern (139.5) and Raleigh Athens Drive (124.5). Rosewood took ninth overall with 73 points.

Brown grinned and stood tall like a proud papa when he hung medals around the necks of his individual champions. Brown stood to the side and watched as camera flashes illuminated one corner of Warrior gymnasium.

"To win a tournament finally, especially ours, was fantastic," said Brown. "It would have been nice to finish with six (gold medals) out of six.

"I told the younger kids that our normal people are going to do what they have to do (today), so you need to take up the slack."

The younger guys did.

Five of six wrestlers prevailed in at least one match, and Keith Brodie -- who just became eligible Thursday -- ended up fourth at 119 pounds. James Knight (125 pounds), Brack Duvall (130), A.J. Washington (135) and heavyweight Foy Coley combined for four individual wins.

"Brodie ... that was a pretty good bracket and I was tickled to death with him," said Brown. "Tyler came in third (at 189). Foy wrestled 40 pounds under in his weight class and won a match.

"It was just a total team effort."

Senior Travis Turner grabbed Most Outstanding Wrestler accolades after claiming the 171-pound individual title. Turner improved to 44-1 and can tie the school's single-season win record (45) on Tuesday against county rival Southern Wayne.

Turner and junior 161-pounder Brian Lincoln, who won his first-ever gold medal, combined for 52 of the Warriors' 190 points. Lincoln improved to 35-6 overall.

Junior Detori Mitchell, who normally wrestles between 135-145 pounds, emerged the 145-pound champion. Mitchell also collected his first gold medal of the season and boosted his overall record to 33-9.

Sophomore 112-pounder Chris Tesar extended his school-record win streak to 42 matches and now has 87 career victories. Senior Joey Burridge, one of three county wrestlers to surpass the 100-win plateau this season, picked up the 152-pound gold medal.

Brandon Johnson (42-5) ended up second at 215 pounds, losing to Triton's Charles Smith 4-3. It was Smith's second win against Johnson this season.

"We knew we had a chance and have had a chance to win several tournaments this year," said Brown. "All the teams were pretty close. Jacksonville beat us in a tournament earlier this year and New Bern had beaten us (in a dual) earlier this year. But this certainly was not a 'gimme.'

"I told the boys this would be the weekend that everybody would have to do their best."

The Warrior staff, including assistants Tom LaFave and coach Farid, stressed the importance of finishing off each match. Four of Eastern Wayne's five individual champions pinned their respective opponents in the finals.

A pair of head-to-head individual victories over Southern Wayne in the final round helped the Warriors pull away for the tournament title.

The Saints, who exited with seven medals overall, had just one individual champion -- 140-pounder Vic Darden. Doogie Niemond (112 pounds), Tristan Bass (125), Eric Futrell (135) and John Futrell (145) each placed second. Heavyweight Josh Robinson was third and 103-pounder Dustin Richards finished fourth.

Rosewood senior Matt Davis, a returning state qualifier, captured the 130-pound title with a first-period fall against Roanoke Rapids' Dominique Vaughan. It was Davis' first gold medal in individual competition this season.

Teammates J.D. Baker and Chris Hare placed third overall at 119 and 125 pounds, respectively.

"The exam break seemed to have really hurt us as far as endurance," said veteran Rosewood coach Bill Edmundson. "J.D. and Chris ... both of these young men have been working extremely hard in the practice room and it's paying off for them."