GREENSBORO — The state wrestling championships began on Thursday for the six local wrestlers who are competing in the 2A portion of the meet at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Of the six grapplers, three from Surry Central and three representing North Surry, two of the Golden Eagles were expected to be strong contenders for an individual state championship. Both Kaleb Dunn, wrestling at 220 pounds, and David Peña at 285 got off to a strong start, winning their opening match. The other four, Central’s Casey Hutchins (106), and North’s Reid Walker (120), Quinn Walker (126) and Sammy McMillian (160) were all knocked off in their openers and dropped into the consolation bracket.
Dunn, who finished fifth last year but has run off a perfect season so far in 2016-17, entered the tournament as the Midwest Regional champion with a record of 31-0, ranked No. 1 in the state by RetroRankings.com at 220. Dunn needed just 84 seconds to pin Michael Rogers of Franklinton, the fourth-place finisher out of the Mideast. He will now taken on Damien Lowmen-Epps of Newton-Conover in the second round. Lowmen-Epps, the West runner-up, is 44-9 this season, ranked sixth in the state, and won his opener on a late second-period fall.
Peña, who finished in third place a year ago, entered the finals with a 26-2 record as the No. 2 seed out of the Midwest. He arguably had the worst draw of any wrestler in the first round of the 285 tournament. Peña, ranked fourth in the 2A classification by RetroRankings, had to wrestle Jonny Araya of Lincolnton, ranked third by Retro, to open the event. Araya, who suffered an upset at the West Regional and only placed third there, entered at 25-6 but was pinned in 3:09 as Peña moved on to the second round. Peña’s second match has enormous state title implications. His next opponent is Emanuel Oquaye of Carrboro, 30-3 on the season after beating Cooper Cromer of North Lenoir by a pin in his opener. Oquaye is ranked No. 1 in the state at 285 by RetroRankings. The winner of their match will likely face the state’s No. 3, Jaqwuez Norman of Farmville Central, in the next round.
Hutchins, a sophomore who qualified with a fourth-place finish in the Midwest Regional, opened up with Mideast champion Hayden Caldwell of Wheatmore and dropped a 9-2 decision. He will wrestle Zack Morrow of Madison in a consolation match tomorrow.
Reid Walker, who was fourth in his weight class at the regional, drew East champion Jeremiah Derby of First Flight in his opener. Derby, the top-ranked wrestler in the class, scored a 13-2 decision victory to advance. Walker will next Elias Tymas of Durham School of the Arts, the Mideast runner-up, in his consolation opener.
At 126, fellow sophomore Quinn Walker was pinned by top-ranked senior and Mideast champion Nathan Oakley of Providence Grove in the opening round of the event. He will try to get back on track today against sixth-ranked Hunter Thompson of Chase, the third-place finisher in the West Regional.
McMillian, the lone freshman to earn a berth in the 2A 160-pound field, drew East Regional champion Josh Soliz as his first assignment. Soliz, representing Southwest Onslow, scored a pin with 46 seconds left in the third period. McMillian will now face the only other underclassman to make the field in his weight class, Carrboro’s Matteo Fulghieri, who finished second in the Mideast, in a consolation round match today.
All of the wrestlers who drop into the consolation round can still potentially finish as high as third place in the state and earn all-state honors.
The wrestlers representing Mount Airy and East Surry in the 1A championships will begin their tournaments today.