The North Lincoln Knights wrestling team captured the Southern Foothills 1A Conference title Friday.
The Knights outlasted Polk County 190-157.5 to earn the championship. Highland Tech had a team total of 123, Cherryville followed with 116 and Hendersonville with 47.
Derrick Hanks, at 103 pounds, and Brian Gentry, at 119, repeated as conference champions in their respective weight classes. North Lincolnâ€™s head coach Chris Falasca was named SF 1A Coach of the Year. He was pleased with his teamâ€™s performance.
â€œIt was good. It really helped that a lot of guys stepped up in the finals. Derrick (Hanks) and Chad (Saunders) really stepped up in the finals. It was a total team effort, the whole team, everybody did their part,â€ he said.
The coach deflected credit for his being named the conferenceâ€™s top coach, believing it was possible because of his wrestlers.
â€œAnything I receive is because of the kids. Itâ€™s their hard work and I get the recognition for their hard work. Itâ€™s nice for me, itâ€™s flattering but without them there wouldnâ€™t be a coach of the year,â€ Falasca said.
Aaron Licourt, at 112 pounds, and Chad Saunders, at 130 pounds, joined Hanks and Gentry as conference champions.
â€œThat (Derrick and Chad) really helped us because they were pins against Polk Co. Aaron wrestled a heck of match against Cherryville. Gentry, I didnâ€™t expect him to pin him that quick, I donâ€™t know what got into him. Once we won the first three, I kind of started to breathe easy because I knew it was over after that. Chad just closed the deal for us and heâ€™s the one whoâ€™s most notable as most improved,â€ Falasca said.
Cody Innes (125), Brian Funk (145), Jacob Smith (160), Greg Fincham (171), Scott Wallace (189) and Aaron Mintun (215) all finished as conference runner-ups.
The victory qualifies North Lincoln for the State Duals on Tuesday. They will meet Surry Central in the first round. If they win, they will then square off against the winner of Polk Co. and Robbinsville later that night. Falasca knows the road will not be easy.
â€œItâ€™s going to be tough, not knowing anything about them (Surry Central). If we can get by them, it looks like itâ€™s going to be Polk Co. again. If we show up ready to wrestle weâ€™ll be fine, but if we donâ€™t weâ€™ll be in trouble. Coach Ollis and his team are class guys and I know theyâ€™ll be ready for us,â€ he said.
Falasca, while proud of the whole team, feels Gentry has really emerged as the season has progressed.
â€œTheyâ€™ve both worked hard all year. Brian, as a senior, wants to go out on a good note and in talking to him, his attitude has just been great. Heâ€™s really wanted it. Derrick is just Derrick, he goes out there and takes care of business,â€ he said.
With a regular season and post-season conference title behind them, the Knights are now focused on the rest of the state of North Carolina.
â€œThey want to win four dual meets and win this thing,â€ Falasca said.
Southern Conference Tournament Finals
103 Derrick Hanks (NL) pin 0:49 Jarret Culbreth (PC), 112 Aaron Licourt (NL dec 11-7 Matt Allen (CH), 119 Brian Gentry (NL) pin 0:58 Mark Todd (HE), 125 Brandon Oelkers (CH) dec. 9-2 Cody Innes (NL),
130 Chad Saunders (NL) pin 2:38 Bradley Highsmith (PC), 135 Josh McMillan (HT) dec 19-13 Josh Edwards (PC), 140 Njele Singogo (PC) 23-7 John Ward (HT), 145 Austin Ollis (PC) dec. 6-2 Brian Funk (NL), 152 Clay Bruggeman (CH) pin 3:05 Alex Klerk (PC), 160 Daniel Finney (PC) pin 5:33 Jacob Smith (NL), 171 Matt Johnson (HE) pin 0:34 Greg Fincham (NL), 189 Derrick McDonald (HT) pin 5:18 Scott Wallace (NL), 215 Ecquetin Johnson (CH) dec 8-4 Aaron Mintun (NL), 275 Brian Parker (HT) pin 1:30 Regis Bittle (PC)
Brian Funk locks up with his opponent in Fridayâ€™s tournament. Funk was a Southern Foothills runner-up in the 145-pound weight class. He is 20-6 on the season. Joseph Brymer / LTN Photo
by John Mark Brooks