02/20/09 — County quintet seeks state titles

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County quintet seeks state titles

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 20, 2009 1:46 PM

Five Wayne County grapplers were among more than 600 competitors vying for gold medals when the 2009 N.C. High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships began this morning in Winston-Salem.

The quintet is participating in one of the biggest, single high school sporting events contested in the Southeast this weekend. First-round matches in three classifications started at 9 a.m. in the double-elimination event, which concludes Saturday.

"In the state tournament, more than any other, you must be at your peak performance from the first whistle to the last," said second-year Charles B. Aycock coach Mark Bass.

Bass is taking just one Golden Falcon -- junior 119-pounder Justin Farrell -- to the tournament. Farrell (42-7 overall) finished third in the Class 3-A East Regional and faced Midwest Regional runner-up Dakota Aldridge of Southwestern Randolph in opening-round action.

"Justin has had an excellent year and he has been preparing for this upcoming weekend all season," said Bass. "We have really focused on conditioning and finishing scoring opportunities. (His) ability to finish a match with the same or more intensity than he starts will go a long way in making this weekend a success."

Farrell is bidding to become just the second wrestling state champion in CBA history and 27th overall in Wayne County lore. The county's last state title-winner was 125-pounder Ngu Tran in 2007.

Joining Farrell in the 3-A ranks is Southern Wayne senior Dustin Richards, who will wrestle in the 145-pound weight

class. Richards, a two-time state qualifier, is an all-Eastern Carolina Conference performance and ended up third in the East Regional a week ago.

Richards met Mideast runner-up Ben Thomas of Burlington Williams this morning.

Three county wrestlers will see action in the 1-A/2-A portion of the tournament. Zach Behrend and Joshua Holmes, a pair of regional champions, will represent Rosewood. Spring Creek's Daniel Richter also qualified after a fourth-place effort in the regional.

Behrend (37-5) drew a match against Mitchell freshman Logan McKinney in the 103-pound division. Holmes, who is 46-2 overall, met Brevard senior Ed Lyda this morning at 145 pounds.

"Zach has been working with Farrell, Richter and James Napier (from North Johnston) this week in practice," said Rosewood coach Bill Edmundson. "These guys are much heavier than Zach and this will give him an advantage when he wrestles someone that is actually his size and weight.

"Joshua is coming off of two of the most-difficult matches of his career and they have really made him grow as a wrestler. He has the motivation, drive and focus to compete, and be successful at this level."

Rosewood hasn't had two state placers since 2004.

Richter faced Robbinsville junior Tyler Caldwell in the first round. A first-time state qualifer, Richter is looking to become the Gators' second state placer in program history.

The NCHSAA has been offering the wrestling championships since the 1930s. This is the 22nd annual event where the tournament has been broken into classifications. Prior to 1987, all wrestlers -- regardless of the school's size -- competed for one single title.