The Ngu champion: Tran claims 125-pound title, becomes Aycock's first-ever state champ
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 26, 2007 1:47 PM
WINSTON-SALEM -- His Charles B. Aycock teammates cheered with every takedown and nearfall, and marveled at how Ngu Tran dissected his final-round opponent with surgeon-like precision.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the cheers grew louder. And when that last whistle blew, Tran jumped off the mat and leapt into the arms of head coach Kevin Smith.
Smith and assistant coach Mark Bass wrapped Tran in a bear hug, and the trio celebrated the senior's Class 3-A state title at 125 pounds. The 30-second emotional outburst extinguished six frustrating years of runner-up and top-four finishes by current and previous Aycock grapplers in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Individual Wrestling Championships.
"The collective emotion of every C.B. Aycock wrestler, coach and parent was amazing during that match," said Smith. "We all, everyone associated with program past and present, had a little something invested in that match.
"We all celebrated Ngu's win as if it were our own."
Tran stayed calm, confident and focused during the two-day event. He posted impressive major decisions over T.W. Andrews senior Darrius Hannah and St. Stephens junior Travis Paap during Friday's action.
The back-to-back victories set up a semifinal-round match against Winston-Salem Parkland sophomore Luis Ramos. Tran never let Ramos get the upper hand and turned back the midwest regional champion 3-0.
Tran faced Mideastern champion Bobby Saunders, a senior from Southern Alamance, for the gold medal. Tran grabbed an early five-point lead and posted a dominating 18-6 result against Saunders.
"The five-point lead really put us in control for the rest of the match," said Smith. "We were able to put Ngu on his feet in the second period, which we feel was the best position for us to be in.
"Ngu had been in this position before, and it showed. He was able to maintain his focus for the full six minutes."
Tran emerged the first state champion in Aycock history and 21st overall in Wayne County lore since 1952. He became the first three-time state-placer during Smith's tenure as head coach.
Overall, eight of 19 participating county grapplers posted a top-six finish in their respective weight divisions in the 3-A and 1-A/2-A classifications combined. Aycock had five placers, followed by Eastern Wayne with two and Rosewood with one.
"It was a remarkable weekend for our program," said Smith. "Five placers would have made a great weekend, but to get a state champion out of those five was definitely something special."
Golden Falcon heavyweight Khiry Reid, a first-time state qualifier, suffered a two-point loss in the semifinals. He bounced back and ended up third overall with a 5-3 decision against North Gaston's Chase Gamble.
Jarrett Covar, also a first-time state qualifier, wound up sixth at 215 pounds. He dropped into the consolation bracket after a semifinal-round loss against Enka senior Jake Lance.
"Khiry and Jarrett really turned it on this weekend," said Smith. "Coach Bass and I both felt like if they came to wrestle, they could place. The two matches they wrestled on Friday were perfect.
"I think both of these kids will take a lot of confidence and practical experience from this weekend, and carry it into what I hope are phenomenal seasons for them next year."
Seniors Ronald Lynn and Bryant Lancaster concluded their prep careers in the consolation round. Lancaster claimed fourth at 145 pounds, while Lynn captured fifth at 135 pounds. The duo became the program's fourth and fifth two-time placers.
Josh Overton (140 pounds) and Steve Bentley (160) each fashioned a 1-2 record. C.B. Aycock seized seventh place in the team-title chase with 73.5 points.
Eastern Wayne senior Brandon Johnson (215 pounds) stumbled in the semifinals, and wrestled back to third place. Teammate Chris Tesar, a three-time eastern regional champion, settled for fourth at 119 pounds.
Fellow Warriors A.J. Washington, a first-time qualifier; Detori Mitchell and Brian Lincoln failed to advance through the consolation round. Head coach Mike Brown said Washington appeared in awe of his surroundings, and that Lincoln was still bothered by a knee injury he sustained more than two months ago.
"A.J. didn't wrestle good," said Brown. "We just didn't do well. It's just one of those things. All in all, I was disappointed, but I was pleased because we could have done worse than we did.
"I still wish Brandon had won a state title. I was glad for Ngu. He worked hard and deserved it."
Eastern Wayne finished tied with Southern Alamance for 16th overall in the team standings. Southern Wayne did not have a state-placer and managed just 18 points during the weekend.
Rosewood's Jim Bish (112) and Chris Hare (130) posted opening-round victories during the 1-A/2-A championships. Each dropped a close loss in their respective quarterfinal-round matches.
Bish worked his way through the consolation bracket and took fifth when he pinned North Wilkes' Mike Prouty in the third period. Hare, however, sustained an injury in his consolation match and couldn't recover.
"Jim's match for fifth place is the one we were hoping would be the championship semifinal match," said Rosewood head coach Bill Edmundson. "We felt really good about Jim's advantage from his feet. He was determined to win and completely dominated Prouty from the opening whistle.
"Jim ended his high school career on a great positive note."
Bish exits with two school records -- most single-season wins (63) and career wins (170-plus). He also finished one victory shy of tying the Wayne County single-season win record (64) held by former Eastern Wayne standout Travis Turner.
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