By RYAN HERMAN
Charles Mack George attended his first wrestling match before he could crawl.
On Saturday, he walked off the mat a state champion.
George capped the first perfect season in West Lincoln history by defeating Anthony Brownridge of Edenton Holmes, 8-3, to win the NCHSAA state 2A individual title in the 195-pound weight class at the Greensboro Coliseum.
George finished the season 57-0, becoming the first Rebels grappler to go through a season without a loss. He’s also the fifth under longtime head coach Butch Ross to win individual gold, and gave West Lincoln back-to-back state champions after Clay Alguire won the 138-pound title in 2013.
“I put a lot of work in the weight room and on the mat, and I knew I had the shot to do it,” George said. “We go through a real difficult schedule, but in my mind I thought, after I did all the work and stuff, that I could do it. I just had to set my mind to it.
“That was my goal. I wanted to be the first undefeated state champion at West Lincoln.”
George’s state journey began on Thursday when he beat North Pitt’s Brian Staton 9-3. The three-sport athlete took out Jakeem Brooks of Durham School of the Arts with a tech fall in 5:07 during Friday’s quarterfinal round, then had his toughest match of the tournament against Andrew Colborn of Newport Croatan.
George edged Colborn 3-2 to set up Saturday afternoon’s title bout with Brownridge.
“He was a really tough opponent; he’s placed fourth twice,” George said of Colborn. “He’s a junior and he’s going to be coming after me next year, so I’m ready for the competition next year.”
Although the final score doesn’t say so –– George led his finals opponent 6-0 in the second period –– he had an equally tough time with Brownridge as he did Colborn due to a cut he suffered above his right eye early in the match during a scramble.
Trainers were able to tape the cut shut, and with one good eye and one in pain, George claimed gold.
“He probably went to his first match when he was about four months old,” Ross said. “This feeling just don’t get old.”
George’s wrestling roots go back to his father, Jeff, who is fondly known as Biscuit around the West Lincoln community.
The elder George has been one of longtime coach Butch Ross’ several assistants for the last 20 years, and felt like this season could be the year his son –– whom he doesn’t coach –– won a state title.
The younger George, who also playoffs football and baseball, missed all of his freshman wrestling season due to a pair of broken wrists suffered in football. He went undefeated in two years of middle school wrestling, Jeff George said, then finished sixth in the state tournament last year as a sophomore.
George also finished eighth in a national event following his sophomore season, becoming West Lincoln’s first All-American wrestler.
Heading into his junior year, things were looking good for a wrestler who moved up a weight class from 182 after increasing muscle due to a 100-pound increase on the weights.
“Me and his mom have been waiting a long time for this,” Jeff George said. “He’s really worked hard. He’s always worked hard at all his sports. “
“He just wrestled hard, and he’s worked hard, and he’s got all that experience from over the years,” Ross added. “He just decided he’s going to win it, and he went out and did it.”
The Rebels, who finished 10th in the team race with 46 points –– Thomasville, the team that knocked the Rebels out of the dual-team playoffs, won with 95.5 points –– and had three others compete this weekend.
Andres Gonzalez reached the 285-pound semifinals before falling, and finished fourth after he dropped a close 2-1 overtime decision to Jackson Price of Central Academy of Technology and Arts.
Jake Clary reached the 106-pound quarterfinals before coming one match short of at least a sixth-place finish. And Robbie Hallman followed the same suit at 113.
“They all worked hard this season and did their best,” Ross said.
East Lincoln workhorse Moses Boyter reached the semifinals at 145 before dropping a 5-1 decision to Alex Monaco of Kill Devil Hills First Flight. That put Boyter in the third-place bout, which he won 5-1 over Dustin Huffman of West Wilkes.
North Lincoln’s Patrick Holden went 0-2 in the 3A tournament at 182, and Jimmy Scott went 1-2 at 220.