Rebelsâ€™ junior Matt Whittle had his eyes set on a second consecutive individual state championship in wrestling for West Lincoln, but it was not to be.
Whittle fell to North Wilkesboroâ€™s George Gianera 6-2 as he had to settle for state runner-up, a feat achieved last year by Dustin Hester.
With 40 seconds remaining, the score was deadlocked at two. Whittle just didnâ€™t get the break he needed to put him over the top.
â€œHe wrestled real hard and defeated a reigning state champion. Either one couldâ€™ve gotten a take down and Gianera ended up with the take down right at the end,â€ West Lincoln head coach Butch Ross said.
Whittle may not have come away with the state title, but that didnâ€™t mean Ross was nonetheless proud.
â€œIâ€™m real proud of him. Heâ€™s work hard all year. Heâ€™s continually gotten better each and every week, so that means heâ€™s working hard day in and day out of practice and really being dedicated,â€ he said.
Another memorable moment, and significant one, came when Matt Avery, at 140 pounds, beat Avery Countyâ€™s Richard Sheppard. The win marked Averyâ€™s 155th victory, which broke which broke former West Lincoln heavyweight state champion Antonio Rojoâ€™s previous mark of 154.
â€œThatâ€™s just an outstanding job. Heâ€™s had an outstanding career. Heâ€™s done a real good job leading on and off the mat and weâ€™re going to really miss him,â€ Ross said. â€œIt took a lot of hard work and dedication for him to break that record,â€ he added.
Both Avery and fellow senior leader Tyler Wilfong, at 145 pounds, finished fourth in the state. Ross shared a wipespread opinion about what wrestlers must do to bounce, both mentally and physically, once theyâ€™re in the consolation bracketâ€”all in one hourâ€™s worth of time.
â€œYou finish in the top four, that says a whole lot about Wilfong, Avery and Hanks. They fought hard through the consolations, so it says a whole lot about them to be able to fight back,â€ he said.
Randall Neal, at 171 pounds, the Rebelsâ€™ fourth state qualifier suffered a loss to Chase Kemodle, Orange, by injury default after landing on his head. He was expected to do â€˜very well,â€™ according to experts.
Whittleâ€™s match-by-match results
112- Matt Whittle pinned Stephen Mitchell, Chatham Central.
Whittle pinned Ryan Mitchell First Flight.
Whittle dec. 4-2 (in overtime) Newtonâ€™s Conoverâ€™s Josh Webster (defending 1A/2A state champ in the 103-pound weight class).
George Gianera, North Wilkesboro dec. 6-2 Whittle in the final.
Averyâ€™s results (4th place)
140- Matt Avery dec. 8-3 Richard Sheppard Avery Co.
Matt Hawksworth Orange dec. Avery 10-3.
Avery dec. 20-5 James Wickline, North Stokes.
Avery dec. 5-1 Kyle McGarity, West Stanly.
Avery pinned Lance Lamonds, East Montgomery.
Hector Ayabar, North Henderson pinned Avery in consolation finals.
Wilfongâ€™s results (4th place)
145- Tyler Wilfong dec. 10-1 Robbie White, West Stokes.
Wilfong dec. 6-3 Junior McCann, Alleghany.
Steven Branch, West Wilkes dec. 6-3 over Wilfong.
In the consolation semifinals, Wilfong dec. 9-3 over Martin Avery Brevard.
In the consolation finals, Wilfong fell to Colt Howell Bandys 4-1.
Hanks results (4th place)
North Lincoln 112 Derrick Hanks (Jr.)
Hanks pinned Trent Cole Central Davidson.
Hanks dec. 13-5 Jonathan Hensley Avery.
George Gianera dec. 4-1 over Hanks.
Hanks pinned Ryan Mitchell First Flight.
In consolation finals, Hanks lost to Josh Webster 3-0 Newton-Conover.
What was expected to be a rebuilding season, the Rebels and Ross exceeded nearly everyoneâ€™s expectations after losing 17 seniors.
â€œEverybody was expecting it to be a rebuilding year, but we finished 29-11. We finished in the top eight in the duals and finished sixth in the individual tournament out of 86 schools,â€ Ross said. â€œSome schools didnâ€™t even have a state representative.â€
by John Mark Brooks