RONDA — Mount Airy wrestling lost a two-time state champion, but don’t expect the team to give up its top spot in the Northwest Conference just yet.
The Granite Bears dominated East Wilkes 72-6 on the road in the season opener Tuesday.
The Bears return three state qualifiers from a year ago, including its other two-time state champion in senior Jacob Hogue.
Coach Cody Atkins said he is very pleased with the turnout for wrestling this year. Just five years ago, the Bears had only seven wrestlers in six weight classes and went 0-27. This season, Atkins said he has 30 kids already and likely will get a few more when football season ends.
The coach said he doesn’t want to rush those guys along, saying he hopes the Bears win the state championship. Still, he will be glad to get back Cody Smith, a state qualifier last year, along with any of his football buddies that come out for the winter.
Smith finished third in the state last year at 195 pounds, noted Atkins. With the two above him graduating, Smith is now the default top-ranked wrestler in 1A until the state rankings come out.
Hogue has his sights set on a third state title. Not only has that never happened in Mount Airy history, it hasn’t been done at any of the other four schools in Surry County, either.
Jacob has gone up a weight class each year as he has grown and filled out, noted the coach. Hogue was a state qualifier as a freshman at 106, then state champ at 113 and 120. Now he will compete at 126.
Also on Hogue’s radar is claiming the school and county records for career wins. North Surry’s Austin Rozier graduated a couple of years ago with 170 wins. Atkins said Hogue could match that by the end of the regular season. With conference tournament matches, regionals and state, Jacob could finish his career with 180 to 185 wins.
Taking Hogue’s spot at 120 will be the Bears’ third returning state qualifier in Luis Osorno, moving up from 113.
Along with Pack at 182, the Bears must replace graduated seniors Chandler Snyder (152), David Luna (170) and Riley Shaw (285).
For this match, here’s who started at the results
At 106, Barron Pilson earns a pin, 6-0.
At 113, Daniel Olvera gets a forfeit, 12-0.
At 120, Luis Osorno, forfeit, 18-0.
At 126, Hogue pinned Joshua Parker, likely a ranked wrestler, in the first period, 24-0.
At 132, Joan Ramirez, major decision, 27-0
At 138, Colby Baker, pin, 33-0.
At 145, Johnny Dollyhigh, major decision, 36-0.
At 152, Butera (who Atkins believes will be ranked in the state) pin, 42-0.
At 160, Jesus Luna, pin, 48-0.
At 170, John Bennett pin, 54-0.
At 182, Eric Olivera, a freshman was pinned by an upperclassman, 54-6.
At 195, Cody Smith pin, 60-6.
At 220, Josh Holmes forfeit, 66-6.
At 285, Gray Stone forfeit, 72-6.
Atkins said Butera could bounce back and forth between 145 and 152. And the lineup will be shuffled a little once football players join in.
One returning starter is Armando Estrada, a JV football player who was called up to varsity for the playoffs. Atkins noted that Estrada threw the game-winning TD pass against East Surry in the season finale.
With at least 31 wrestlers on the roster, there is a lot of youth as only five are seniors, the coach said. While that means there is plenty of growth needed, he says it is definitely a good sign for the program’s future.
The Bears will give the home crowd its first performance when they host North Forsyth, 3A school, on Thursday evening.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.