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Whittle 2nd in state

Rebels’ 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 Wilkesboro’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 didn’t get the break he needed to put him over the top.
“He wrestled real hard and defeated a reigning state champion. Either one could’ve gotten a take down and Gianera ended up with the take down right at the end,” West Lincoln head coach Butch Ross said.
Whittle may not have come away with the state title, but that didn’t mean Ross was nonetheless proud.
“I’m real proud of him. He’s work hard all year. He’s continually gotten better each and every week, so that means he’s working hard day in and day out of practice and really being dedicated,” he said.
Another memorable moment, and significant one, came when Matt Avery, at 140 pounds, beat Avery County’s Richard Sheppard. The win marked Avery’s 155th victory, which broke which broke former West Lincoln heavyweight state champion Antonio Rojo’s previous mark of 154.
“That’s just an outstanding job. He’s had an outstanding career. He’s done a real good job leading on and off the mat and we’re going to really miss him,” Ross said. “It took a lot of hard work and dedication for him to break that record,” 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 they’re in the consolation bracket—all in one hour’s worth of time.
“You 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,” he said.
Randall Neal, at 171 pounds, the Rebels’ fourth state qualifier suffered a loss to Chase Kemodle, Orange, by injury default after landing on his head. He was expected to do ‘very well,’ according to experts.

Whittle’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) Newton’s Conover’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.

Avery’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.

Wilfong’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 everyone’s expectations after losing 17 seniors.
“Everybody 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,” Ross said. “Some schools didn’t even have a state representative.”

by John Mark Brooks

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