Wayne County trio finishes as state runners-up
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 27, 2006 2:33 PM
WINSTON-SALEM -- You could say that Chris Tesar, Ngu Tran and Wes Denham followed the same blueprint to success this season.
Each emerged a conference champion.
Each claimed a regional title.
Each reached the final round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships and came within seconds or moves of etching their names in the Wayne County history books. Each grappler had to unwillingly settle for a silver medal, but also wrote another illustrious chapter for his respective program.
Tesar, a sophomore, became the first two-time placer and two-time all-state performer for Eastern Wayne. A former middle school champion in Alaska, Tesar finished a phenomenal 59-1 overall after falling to Rutherfordton-Spindale Central senior Gabe Lockett in the Class 3-A 112-pound title match.
Tran, a second-year wrestler at Charles B. Aycock, improved upon last year's fourth-place finish at the two-day meet. Tran concluded the year 52-6 after enduring a heartbreaking, 4-3 loss to Morehead's Bobby Shanor in the 119-pound championship match in the 3-A division.
Denham, who hails from a wrestling family and is a Spring Creek senior, took second at 215 pounds in the 1-A/2-A division. North Brunswick senior Darryl Rattley prevailed 8-2 and avenged a loss against Denham in the eastern regional final.
It was the first time since 1959 that three wrestlers competed for a state title in the same season. Goldsboro had a county-record five individual champions that year --Irvin Hales (113 pounds), David Lane (130), Bill Rutledge (148), Bobby Friend (178) and heavyweight Phil Ellis.
Tesar kept a watchful eye on Lockett during Friday's first- and second-round action.
Lockett admitted he didn't view Tesar's matches.
"If you start watching your opponent, it becomes 'paper' wrestling and you begin to worry about their records," said Lockett, a senior. "I just go in and wrestle. It was a pretty complicated match because we both wanted it.
"(Scoring early) was pretty crucial to get the match started and to begin breaking down your opponent ... dominating right away."
Lockett earned the initial takedown and kept Tesar on the mat throughout the first period. Tesar yielded a second-period escape, and another takedown to Lockett in the second period. He could never get off the mat.
"I tried to pop up and he kept pulling me down," said Tesar. "I didn't know what to do."
Tesar's teammates sat stunned when Lockett snapped Tesar's school-record, 59-match win streak with a second-period fall.
"I was a little nervous and as soon as that match started, I knew it was going to be tough," said Tesar. "He's just on a totally different level than I am ... he's a senior and I'm in 10th grade. He definitely out-wrestled me. He wanted it, too.
"You get this far and want it so bad. You try your hardest and it's gone."
Lockett denied Tesar's bid to become Eastern Wayne's first state champion since 1987 when Nick Smith grabbed the 119-pound title in the 4-A division.
Tran met Morehead sophomore Bobby Shanor during the NCHSAA eastern regional dual-team championships about two weeks ago and squeezed out a two-point win in that meeting.
This match held the same drama, only Shanor eluded Tran's title bid with a crucial takedown in the final seven seconds of regulation.
"I felt really confident, but knew it was going to be a tough match in the finals because it's anyone's game here," said Shanor, who finished the season 73-6 overall. "I might have just wanted it more. I knew I had to be more aggressive because he's good on his feet, and that's my weaker position."
Tran posted the match's first takedown and Shanor escaped late in the opening period. Tran regained his two-point advantage with a second-period escape, but Shanor -- again -- answered with an escape.
The two blocked each other's attempts of single- and double-leg takedowns for the next minute. Shanor finally forced Tran to the math and wiggled his way to the medal-clinching takedown with seven seconds to go.
"The pressure was on and I had to score," Shanor said.
Tran became the fourth state runner-up in Aycock history.
"We stuck to our game plan and wrestled tight," said Aycock coach Kevin Smith. "We knew it was going to come down to a takedown ... one way or the other. We wanted it to be close because we felt like we were a little better on our feet.
"Ngu wrestled hard and smarter ... with a lot of heart. Unfortunately, somebody has to lose in that situation."
Denham recorded two falls and a major decision on his way to the 215-pound final.
Once he realized his opponent would be Rattley, he remembered one thing his siblings Tony and Ronny always told him -- "don't tie up."
Rattley seemed to prefer the collar-and-elbow tie method throughout the opening period, which kept Denham from attempting any clean shots. Rattley led 2-0 after one period and 2-1 going into the third.
"Tying up is a bad habit and it's something I always seem to do," said Denham. "He was just more prepared for me this time."
Rattley escaped Denham's hold to start the third period. He picked up a penalty point, a takedown and two nearfall points en route to the 8-2 win.
Denham was 1-4 combined in his previous two trips to the state championships. He finished as Spring Creek's all-time wins leader (98) and collected the fourth medal overall for the Denham household. A two-time regional champion, Ronny finished second at 130 and 140 pounds, respectively, in 1995 and '96. Tony was fourth at 145 pounds in 1998.
Ronny and Tony wrestled for Southern Wayne.
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