02/18/08 — Neal sets new standard at Rosewood

View Archive

Neal sets new standard at Rosewood

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 18, 2008 2:31 PM

Olivia Neal felt the aches, pains and strains when she stretched after waking up Sunday morning.

She knew then her dream just wasn't a fantasy.

It was true.

Neal, a senior at Rosewood, had indeed become the first-ever female qualifier for the N.C. High School Athletic Association wrestling championships in any classification.

"When I woke up I had that achy body feeling and I knew that it had really happened," said Neal. "It's just taking a while to sink in."

Neal isn't the only Eagle to punch a ticket to this weekend's finals in Winston-Salem. Junior Josh Holmes and senior heavyweight Trevor Morris, who joined the program's Century Club (100 career wins), qualified at 145 pounds and heavyweight, respectively.

The trio helped Rosewood place 12th overall as a team in the highly-competitive, two-day event.

"We're in a very tough region with 32 teams and only 16 slots," said Rosewood coach Bill Edmundson. "There were a lot of good wrestlers who didn't even qualify for regionals. To finish in the top four out of a competition that selective is asking a lot.

"These three wrestlers earned their passage to the state championships."

Although Neal didn't protect her No. 1 seed in the Classes 1-A/2-A eastern regional at Croatan, she started the weekend in impressive fashion. The 103-pounder pinned North Pitt's Chris Wilson in 12 seconds and needed three-plus minutes to stick Croatan's Robbie Gladwell in the quarterfinals.

J.C. Mitchell, from First Flight, bumped Neal into the consolation bracket on Saturday morning. He refused to tie up against Neal or wrestle on the mat, and squeezed out an 8-6 win.

"I had wrestled Mitchell's older brother before, so I guess they got together and worked their shots pretty hard," said Neal. "(After the loss) I started thinking about last year and getting really worried that I'd miss my chance for states my senior year."

But the nerves never surfaced.

Neal pinned Richlands' Steven Look in 43 seconds and her four-year quest was complete. She followed the historic victory with an 11-8 decision over Gladwell in the third-place match.

"Olivia has worked really hard this year to improve her strength, conditioning and technique," said Edmundson. "She is a very goal-oriented person and set some pretty lofty goals for the season. She has just a couple of items to check off."

For now, however, Neal will enjoy her success.

"I was so excited," said Neal. "It was definitely OK with me that I didn't get first because I had never done that at regionals anyway. Not in my craziest dreams did I think I'd qualify for states."

The aches and pains prove otherwise.