Surry County will have eight wrestlers competing in the Class 2A state championships beginning today at the Greensboro Coliseum.
North Surry has three and Surry Central will send five to the championships, with 2A competition getting under way at 5 p.m.
For the Greyhounds, Austin Rozier comes in as the No. 1 seed at 126 pounds from the Midwest region. The junior is 37-3 on the season and will take on the No. 4 seed from the East region, Northside’s Douglas Bulla (19-15).
Junior Cody Slate (38-2) is the Midwest region’s top seed at 220 pounds. He will go up against Farmville Central’s Edward Davis, who is 19-11 and is the fourth seed from the East region.
Devyn Green (35-6), also a junior, is the Midwest region’s No. 3 seed at 170 pounds. He’ll face North Brunswick’s Tyrone Watson, a 30-9 No. 2 seed from the East region.
While the 1A has eight-man brackets and places the top four finishers, the 2A tournament has 16-man brackets with the top six finishers considered to have “placed.”
“All three have a legitimate shot at placing this weekend if they wrestle well,” North coach Eric Jessup said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how they do under the big lights. How high they place will be based on how well they wrestle. The sky’s the limit for all three of them. All three had great regional tournaments. Rozier and Slate won their weight classes. Green came in third. He lost a close match in the semifinals on last-second take-down. He could have been in the finals also.”
Justin Jones captured the last individual state wrestling crown at North, winning two straight titles in 2007 and 2008. The Greyhounds have had several wrestlers reach the finals since then.
North Surry and Surry Central practiced together Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The first round of the 2A competition gets under way this evening, and continues Friday and Saturday.
It’s a long weekend of wrestling, especially coming on the heels of a tough 2A Midwest regional at Ashe County. Jessup said the practices this week were pretty light.
“Most of the guys were pretty sore and pretty tired after Saturday and Sunday at regionals,” Jessup said. “The big thing is preparing mentally, probably more than physically. Getting your head settled.”
Jessup said Rozier, Slate and Greene all stepped up and came up big last weekend.
“They knew they would have to to get out of that region,” he said. “All three of my kids are juniors. It”s a good opportunity for all of them to place as juniors and maybe win it. That’s what the ultimate goal should be. To win it.”
For the Eagles, senior Nathon Bautista (Midwest No. 3 seed, 106 pounds) opens up against Aaron Anderson of Farmville Central (East No. 2 seed). Bautista, who comes into the match at 28-3, is making his third trip to the state championships.
Senior Kevin Pack (Midwest No. 3 seed, 120 pounds) will take on Farmville Central’s Shihiem Hogan (East No. 2 seed). Pack is 33-6 this season and is also making his third appearance competing at the state meet.
Kaleb Dunn (195 pounds) is the third seed from the Midwest. The 29-9 freshman kicks things off with Mideast No. 2 seed Mysiah Brunson of Clinton, who is 31-2.
At 145 pounds, Uriel Secundino is the fourth seed from the Midwest. The 38-4 junior faces the top seed from the Mideast region, 47-1 Dalton Clark of Providence Grove.
At 170 pounds, junior Zack Martin is the fourth seed from the Midwest. Martin, who is 31-8, will go up against undefeated Devon Van Cura of Washington (East No. 1 seed, 34-0).
“They are excited, anxious, nervous all thrown into one,” Central coach Stephen Priddy said. “I want them to do their best, which sounds simple, but it’s a long three days and a lot of stress. I don’t want them to feel that. I’d love for them all to go down there and place. If it doesn’t happen, I want them to learn something and know they left it all out there.”
Central’s Wes Brown, a state runner-up in 2013, won an individual state title in 2012 for the Eagles. Priddy said he hopes all of his wrestlers are still in the mix on Saturday.
The atmosphere for the wrestling championships can be overwhelming for newcomers. More than 784 of the state’s best prep wrestlers will compete with almost 1,400 individual matches being contested over the course of the event, with 56 different individual champions crowned.
Eight wrestling mats are going simultaneously.
Priddy said if you haven’t been to the state championships, it can look a little bit like the scene from the sports classic “Hoosiers” where the Hickory basketball team walks into the fieldhouse for the Indiana state basketball final.
“Sometimes you get kids who get a little shell-shocked,” he said. “They know what the inside of a high school gym looks like. Going into the Greensboro Coliseum and you are on the floor, it can get to you.”
For the fifth consecutive year, the 1A classification will have its own individual weight class champions. This will also be the fifth year in a row the wrestling championships have been held in Greensboro. Prior to that the event had a seven-year run at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
Parkland has won seven of the last eight tournament titles over two classifications and the Mustangs have also earned eight straight state championships in two different classifications in dual team competition. Orange has captured the 3A tournament title the last two championships while Croatan took the 2013 2A crown for the third time in the past four years.
North Rowan won last year’s 1A crown, breaking a three-year title run by West Wilkes, which moved up to 2A this year.