Fans of the Elkin and Mount Airy wrestling teams packed the N.H. Carpenter Gymnasium on the campus of Elkin High School on Thursday night in hopes of seeing an all-Surry County showdown for the West 1A Regional championship and a trip to the state finals.
Unfortunately, Robbinsville High School came over the mountains and spoiled the party for both teams. The Black Knights, who entered the quad as RetroRankings.com’s fourth-ranked team in the East, first upset the Granite Bears (40-28) and then the Buckin’ Elks (39-32) to advance to the dual-team state finals for the first time in the program’s 42-year history.
Robbinsville (21-5 overall) will host two-time defending state champion Rosewood on Saturday for the 1A state title.
Thursday night’s action encompassed the third and fourth rounds of the playoffs, and the third-round matches pitted the top-four teams in the West against one another. Elkin hosted Mitchell in one semifinal, while Mount Airy took on the Black Knights in the other. The matches were contested simultaneously, with Elkin having borrowed a mat from Starmount to make this possible.
Each match started at 170 pounds and was tightly contested in the early going. The Bears led 12-6 early on. At 182 pounds, Eric Olvera rallied from an 8-3 deficit against Wess Hooper to take a 9-8 lead late in the third period, then pinned Hooper with four seconds remaining. This was followed by a Robbinsville forfeit at 195 pounds. When Mount Airy’s Gray Stone scored a second-period pin at 285, the Bears made the turn ahead 18-12.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the gym, the Elks started out with a 12-0 lead, thanks to pins by Jerry Neese and Juan Anaurio. However, Mitchell (19-8 overall) rallied with wins in four of the next five weight classes and took a 21-17 lead following the completion of the 113-pound match. Justin Redd’s win by technical fall at 220 was Elkin’s only victory during this time.
When the Bears and Knights went back to the top of the lineup, Robbinsville scored a pin at 106 and tied the match at 18. A very long match at 113 pounds followed, in which the Bears’ Daniel Olvera had to take two long injury time-outs in his match against Kade Millsaps, due to an injury that the latter caused. The Mount Airy training staff had to tape Olvera’s nose twice to keep him in the match, which ultimately went right down to the last second. Trailing 9-8 and under Millsaps’ control, Olvera scored a reversal right before the final horn sounded, claiming a 10-9 victory and a 21-18 lead for his team. The Black Knights then scored a pin at 120, but two-time defending state champion Jacob Hogue sent his man to the mat in just 24 seconds to put Mount Airy on top 27-24.
In the meantime, the host team was also in the ascendant. Trailing 21-17, the Elks cut their deficit to one point when Ryan Patterson scored a decision at 120 pounds. However, the turning point probably came at 126, where Mikey Grubbs was locked up in a match that was tied 7-7 late. However, Grubbs got control of things, scored a pin, and the Buckin’ Elks kicked their way back into the lead, 26-21.
From there, it was all Elkin. Jude Lloyd scored a quick pin at 132, Luke Anderson won by decision at 138 to push the gap to 35-21, and Ethan Chipman did the same at 145. With a 38-21 lead and only two matches remaining, the Elks forfeited out for an official 38-33 win.
While the Elks were putting things away, Robbinsville won by minor decision at 132 and its match with the Bears was tied at 27. The 138-pound match that followed, although it didn’t ultimately decide the winner, is one that Mount Airy will long rue.
In this match, the Bears’ Johnny Dollyhigh took on Kollin Guffey in a match filled with action, and in which it appeared as if they two competitors didn’t much care for one another. In the third period of what had been a closely contested match between two ranked wrestlers, Dollyhigh scored a near-fall and appeared to have a 12-6 win as time expired. However, he committed an unsportsmanlike act as the match ended, one that the referee deemed serious enough that he not only forfeited the match to Guffey, but also deducted two penalty points from the Bears’ team score. Instead of leading 30-27, Mount Airy trailed 33-25.
When the next match ended in a major decision win for the Knights, the Bears needed pins in the final two weight classes just to tie. However, Austin Tumbarello could only score a 3-2 decision win over Payne Anderson at 152 pounds, and Mount Airy lost at 160 anyway. Even if the incident at 138 hadn’t occurred, the Bears would have lost by two points.
After a 30-minute break, the Buckin’ Elks took on Robbinsville for the right to advance to the state championship match. The Black Knights had the momentum, though, and held onto it.
This match opened at 182 pounds, with Elkin’s Neese clinging to a 5-4 lead on Hooper going to the third period. However, he was unable to hold on and ended up losing by pin. The Elks caught a break when Anaurio was the victim of an illegal move at 195, and was injured too badly to continue the match. This meant that he was awarded the win by default. When Redd came through again, scoring a 9-4 decision over Elijah Wachacha, the Elks led the match 9-6.
That was Elkin’s last hurrah for quite some time. The Black Knights scored pins at 285 and 106 in a combined 39 seconds. The 113-pound match ended in a 14-10 decision for Millsaps over Tyjae Townsend. At 120, Robbinsville earned a pin in just 51 seconds, and at 126, Grubbs fought hard but lost a decision. This left the Knights on top 30-9 with time running out.
At 132, Lloyd routed Guffey to the tune of a 17-2 technical fall, leaving the score at 30-14 in favor of Robbinsville with five weight classes left. There was still time, but the Knights were too strong. They scored a decision win at 138 and a first-period pin at 145 to push the lead to 39-14 and clinch the victory.
Even though the match was decided, the teams wrestled on at 152, where Chipman scored one last Elkin victory by pinning Robbinsville’s Tim Thiessen with 16 seconds left in the second period. The Knights forfeited 160 and 170 to Blake Frye and Tyler Wood, respectively.
Elkin finishes its dual-team season at 16-2, while Mount Airy wrapped up at 35-4. Both teams will shoot for more honors at the state wrestling regionals on Feb. 10-11 at Alleghany High School.
Reach John Cate via Twitter at @johncate73.