Golden Falcons repeat as champs
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 6, 2006 2:14 PM
PIKEVILLE - The fifth edition of the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference wrestling tournament took on a "Wayne County flavor" Saturday afternoon.
Wrestlers from the three county teams -- Charles B. Aycock, Southern Wayne and Eastern Wayne -- combined to claim all 14 individual titles. The team championship remained firmly in the grasp of the Golden Falcons, who racked up 198 points and ended the day with five individual title winners.
Southern Wayne flirted with dethroning Aycock with three stunning victories early in the championship finals. The Saints finished with a school-record four ECC champions and amassed 161.5 points during the five-team event.
Eastern Wayne had a program-best five individual champions since moving to the 3-A ranks five years ago. The Warriors collected a total of 10 medals and ended up third overall with 146 points.
League newcomers Wilson Hunt and Wilson Beddingfield tallied 71 and 65 points, respectively.
"We were all excited once again to check off one of our preseason goals, but as a team we were way too inconsistent today to say that any of us were pleased with the way we wrestled," said C.B. Aycock coach Kevin Smith.
The Golden Falcons put 11 wrestlers in the championship round and owned what appeared to be a comfortable 30-point lead. But the advantage quickly dwindled to a mere 141/2 points after three head-to-head losses against the much-improved Saints.
Sophomore Tristan Bass started a four-match sweep with a 3-0 decision against top-seeded Derek Lancaster at 125 pounds. Josh Richards recorded a 15-0 technical fall against Hunt's Brandon Barnes at 130 pounds, and teammate Eric Futrell followed with a 17-5 major decision against the Golden Falcons' Josh Overton.
Vic Darden, an ECC wrestler of the year vote-getter, shocked top-seeded Ronald Lynn in the 140-pound final. Darden avenged a loss to Lynn during their regular-season, dual-match meeting.
"I was very pleased with the way my guys wrestled ... think it was our best showing of the year," said first-year Southern Wayne coach Andy Sullivan. "As always, I am amazed at C.B. Aycock's kids because they really do a great job. I am very proud of all my guys.
"I think (the medals) are the product of a hard season and what can happen when you set a goal."
Bryant Lancaster got Aycock back on track and repeated as ECC champion at 145 pounds. Lancaster wrestled intelligent from start to finish in a 17-8 major decision against the Saints' John Futrell. Two bouts later, teammate Tim Harrison clinched the overall title with a 14-7 victory against Eastern Wayne junior Brian Lincoln.
"Bryant is one kid I never have to worry about being ready to wrestle," said Smith. "He has a great attitude for the sport; continues to grow more confident about his abilities and should have a very good postseason.
"Tim is physical, heavy-handed and always looking to score points. He has also emerged as a great leader and role model for my other kids. We wouldn't be the team we are right now without him."
Eastern Wayne grapplers captured the next three matches.
Senior 171-pounder Travis Turner extended the single-season Wayne County win record to 53 with a second-period fall against Aycock's Jason Steed. Tyler Wicks, competing in his first-ever ECC tournament, emerged the 189-pound champion. Brandon Johnson had no trouble securing the 215-pound title.
"Tyler ... that was one I didn't expect," said Eastern Wayne coach Mike Brown. "It helped that (Ricky) Coley upset Aycock's kid (Zach Wright) and that was probably the biggest surprise."
Senior Joey Burridge became a first-time ECC champion with a nail-biting 3-1 conquest of Aycock's Steve Bentley at 152 pounds. It was a repeat of last Tuesday's dual match, which Burridge won by one point.
Sophomore Chris Tesar repeated as the 112-pound champion with a 9-5 decision over second-seeded Doogie Niemond. Tesar, who became the first conference champion to finish unbeaten (50-0) through tournament play, has beaten Niemond four times this season. Three of those victories have occurred in tournament finals.
"For Tesar to get wrestler of the year was a great honor for him," said Brown. "He hadn't gotten a tournament MOW all year long.
"I am tickled with the kids ... couldn't be more happier. I wish we had finished higher as a team, but the Southern Wayne boys really stepped up. He (Sullivan) said his kids seem to pick it up whenever we are around."
C.B. Aycock senior Shane Lozier concluded the four-hour tournament with a thrilling double-overtime victory against the Saints' Josh Robinson. Robinson earned a stalling point late in the third period to forge a 2-2 tie.
The wrestlers couldn't gain any leverage in the first overtime. Lozier had choice for the second OT - a 30-second period. Since he scored the first point of the match, he wisely chose bottom and immediately broke Robinson's hold for a 3-2 win.
Lozier earned his first-ever ECC crown in his first-ever appearance in the final. He became the 13th individual conference champion since Aycock moved to the ECC in 2001-02.
"A first-year starter, Shane is making his accomplishments even more impressive," said Smith, whose program has produced 25 individual titles among 13 wrestlers. "We were concerned early on this year that his lack of mat experience might hurt him, but it has not.
"That is a testament to how hard he has worked to become a solid wrestler."
Juniors Drake Gurley (103 pounds) and Ngu Tran (119) protected their respective No. 1 seeds en route to gold medals. Gurley, the No. 1 seed, captured his first-ever title with two technical falls. Tran defended his conference title and improved to 39-3 overall.
Meanwhile, sophomores Zach Wright (189 pounds) and Jordan Pearson (112) each finished third.
"Zach and Jordan were a big help to our cause today," said Smith, who was named ECC coach of the year. "I was pleased to see them put an early setback behind them and wrestle well in the consolation finals.
"(But) the kids know that we have to find a physical and intense style of wrestling again if we want to have a good showing this week in state duals. There are no easy matches from this moment on, and the kids know it."
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