HAYS — Sometimes, wrestling is as much about tactics and strategy off the mat as it is on.
Mount Airy head coach Cody Atkins played his hand well in a tri-meet on Tuesday night, and walked away with a sweep of Forbush and North Wilkes as his team improved to 9-1 on the season.
The Granite Bears opened the meet with a non-conference match against Forbush, and when Atkins received a favorable draw that let him begin the meet with the 138-pound weight class, Mount Airy was able to build a huge lead. Late in the match, with the victory already in hand, Atkins forfeited two weight classes to the Falcons in order to save two of his key performers for the ensuing showdown with North Wilkes, a strong 2A team.
In the end, the Bears won both matches, downing Forbush 42-30 and then defeating the host school 46-28.
East Surry was also scheduled to take part in the meet, but an apparent miscommunication led to the Cardinals not being present. East just completed its football season last Friday night, and unlike Mount Airy, it depends on some football players as part of its wrestling team.
In any case, things were already coming up spades for the Bears when the draw for the match against Forbush had the meet beginning at 138.
“That’s exactly where I wanted to start,” said Atkins. “I thought we had a really good chance of winning in the middle weights and getting a lead, and that’s what happened.”
Johnny Dollyhigh obligingly opened the match with a pin for the Bears. Chris Butera (145) and Austin Tumbarello (152) did likewise. Jesus Luna lost at 160, but held his opponent to a three-point minor decision, and then John Bennett got those points back and then some with a pin. Mount Airy duly led 24-3 after five matches, and there was no way the Falcons were coming back from that.
Forbush had to forfeit 195 to Cody Smith and then Josh Holmes claimed a decision at 220 to extend the lead to 33-9. When the teams made the turn back to the lower weight classes, the Bears earned two more wins, on a forfeit to Barron Pilson and a decision win by Jacob Hogue at 126, but Atkins decided not to go for the maximum victory. He forfeited the 113 and 132 weight classes to the Falcons instead of sending his wrestlers out.
“I wanted to keep those kids fresh for North Wilkes,” he said.
Against the Vikings, the coaches drew to start at 145, but this wasn’t as favorable to Mount Airy, as North Wilkes’ lineup was strong where Forbush wasn’t.
“They’re really strong in the middle and weaker down low,” Atkins said.
Still, Butera got the Bears off to a good start with a pin at 145. However, the Vikings scored a major decision at 152, a pin at 160 and decision wins at 170 and 182, the latter in sudden-death overtime, and North Wilkes took a 16-6 lead.
The next four matches all ended in pins, but two of them were courtesy of Mount Airy’s Cody Smith at 195 and Gray Stone at 275, so after the Vikings answered with a pin of their own at 106, the lead was still just 10, at 28-18.
And this match was effectively over. The Bears rampaged through the rest of the evening, and North Wilkes failed to score again. One of the two wrestlers Atkins held back against Forbush, Daniel Olivera, hit the mat and scored a pin at 113. The Vikings didn’t even bother contesting Luis Osorno at 120, handing the state’s sixth-ranked wrestler at 113 a win by forfeit. That put Mount Airy back on top 30-28, but they weren’t finished. Hernan Ramirez claimed a forfeit at 126, giving the Bears an eight-point lead with two matches left to go. North Wilkes would have to win both to have any chance at victory, and won neither. Jacob Hogue clinched it with a pin at 132, and then Joan Ramirez won by major decision at 138.
Atkins said that everyone contributed to the success, even the wrestlers who may have come up short in their individual matches.
“We did a great job of not getting pinned,” he said. “A lot of times, it comes down to that in a dual meet. If you avoid being pinned, it’s less points for the other team, so it’s important to stay off our back and not get pinned. We did that very well against two tough teams.”
The Bears will compete in the Rockingham County Duals on Saturday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.