JONESVILLE — The Granite Bears opened the winter wrestling season with two wins on the road.
In two very different matches, Mount Airy dominated Atkins, then pulled off a last-gasp comeback against the host Starmount Rams.
Two years ago the Bears lost every team match because they didn’t have enough kids on the team.
That’s where Atkins was at a year ago, noted Coach Steve Braune. Atkins has more athletes now, but the boys are still inexperienced, he said.
Still, what the Bears accomplished Tuesday night was as close to perfection as a team can come.
“We pinned every single one of their kids in the first period,” he said. In fact, most of the matches were finished in the first minute.
In the 14 weight classes, the Bears didn’t surrender a single point before getting the victory. In the other match, the Bears wrestler took down his opponent for two points, then was called for locking the hands, which gave a point to Atkins.
The Bears then earned a pin to keep the match a perfect 84-0.
Braune said he can feel for the Atkins coach because the Bears were in the same hard spot two years ago.
However, with Mount Airy Hall of Fame wrestler Dennis France coaching at the middle school, the Bears have had an influx of young talent the past two years to bolster the ranks.
Against Starmount, the Bears held a 24-18 lead before the Rams rolled off four straight wins for a 40-24 lead with just three matches left.
Three decision wins would only get the Bears to 40-33. In order to win, the Bears needed three pins, and the wrestlers came through for a 42-40 thriller.
With the football season over, the Bears picked up a few extra bodies – although some of them didn’t participate. Standout Shay Wilson wasn’t in the lineup yet after playing running back. Kolte Poore, who was expected to compete for the 182-pound starting spot, is out with a shoulder injury.
The Starmount meet began at the 170-pound class with Austin Branch. The junior battled hard, but was pinned in the third period.
At 182, Jordan Atkins lost in the second period to give the Rams a 12-0 lead.
At 195, Julian Rawley, a junior wrestling for the first time, was pinned in the first period. That made it 18-0.
Zaqwan Dobson got the Bears going with a pin at 220 pounds He stopped the clock with just two seconds left in the first period.
Offensive lineman Isaiah King manned the heavyweight spot and toppled his opponent immediately.
He pinned the other kid in about 10 seconds, Braune said. The two wrestlers were both big guys, but Isaiah is very strong, he said.
At 106, Alex Howard wasn’t far off King’s example as he earned a fall in just 24 seconds to tie the meet at 18-all.
Starmount gave up a forfeit at 113 to Daniel Sechrist to give the Bears their first lead at 24-18.
They looked like they would build on that at 120 when Tyler Duty took down his man twice in the first period. In the second, however, Duty made a move, but was caught and pinned. That tied the score 24-24.
At 126 is Jackson Blizzard, who won 33 matches and was ranked most of last season at 106 pounds
Blizzard and Cody Leonard went at it for all six minutes without a fall. Leonard won a major decision at 9-1, which is worth four points instead of the six that a pin earns.
Braune said he tells the boys all the time that they have to do everything they can not to be pinned because every point can be important. That certainly held true in this match.
After Jamie Smith was pinned at 132, the margin was 10 at 34-24.
At 138, freshman Cameron Pack went for a farside cradle and was caught in the second period. That made it 40-24 with three to go.
At 145 is Triston Mabry, who led the Bears in the regular season last year with 34 wins, earned a fall in just 40 seconds to keep Mount Airy’s hopes alive.
At 152 is Landon Mumford, a sophomore who is co-captain with Blizzard. He took down his man and got a pin 1:10 into the second period.
That made it 40-36 with Dallas Smith up last at 160 pounds If Smith earned a decision, the Bears would lose 40-39. If he had a major decision, the Bears would tie.
In the first period, the Rams got a takedown for a 2-0 lead. Smith started the second on the bottom and pulled off a reversal for two points. Then he flipped his opponent onto his back and got a pin with 17 seconds left in the period.
Smith earned Mount Airy a victory, but it was Blizzard’s loss that kept coming back to Braune.
The margin was just two points, and that is the difference between a pin and a major decision.
“That’s how important not getting pinned is,” he emphasized.