CLAYTON — Cleveland is establishing one of the top 3A wrestling programs in the state, while Southern Wayne is rebuilding almost from scratch.
So when the two teams squared off in Eastern Carolina Conference action Wednesday night in the Rams’ gym, the result wasn’t much of a surprise.
Holden Bohannon at 195 pounds and Javonte Moon at 145 each had quick first-round pins, leading the hosts to a 78-3 victory over the Saints.
The win improved defending conference champion Cleveland to 12-3, 2-0 in ECC action, while Southern Wayne – which was coming off back-to-back winless seasons – fell to 7-16 in dropping its conference opener. The Rams, in only their third year, have never lost to the Saints.
“We’ve got a good group of kids,” said Cleveland coach Scott Riley, whose team had beaten the Saints 65-16 in a non-conference dual match on Saturday. “We knew Southern Wayne was a young team, and we just came out and took care of business. We won’t get big heads because of this.
“We’ve lost to some really good wrestling teams. We hope we’re on track to do well in the post-season. Now that we’ve got seniors this is our best chance to do well at states.”
The Rams recorded seven pins, picked up five forfeits and one other win by injury default.
“Every chance we get to wrestle, we get better,” first-year Southern coach Glenn Gardner said. “So it’s a really good opportunity to wrestle a team at Cleveland’s level in our conference. This gives us a lot of good mat experience.
“We only have three juniors and everyone else is a freshman or a sophomore, so all we can do is get better.”
Malik Jones got the Saints’ only victory, beating Alexander Kuppler 8-1 at 126.
Bohannon’s 31-second pin of Tyquan Collie to open the match was a sign of things to come.
“I just went out there and executed what I knew,” said the senior Bohannon, who finished third in the state at 220 last year and is now 20-3 on the season. “It’s another one in the books.
“I really like our team. It’s a good group of guys. We’ve gained a lot of experience and we have a great brotherhood.”
Moon had the quickest pin of the night, stopping Kanye Wallace in 29 seconds.
“I just went out and wrestled and did my thing,” said the junior Moon, who improved to 21-5. “We’ve got a great bond on this team. We like to clown around a lot, but when it’s time to get serious we get serious.
“We keep improving and the younger guys keep getting better.”
The Rams’ Blaine Bryant stopped Chris Brinson in 2:24 at 182, Josiah Evans pinned Chase Horton in 2:57 at 132, Dakota Hill stopped Austin Williams in 3:20 at 138, Josh Williams pinned Brendell Bass in 3:21 at 152 and Bryer Rogers stopped Deonte Hayes in 5:19 at 285.
“I knew (Brinson) was one of the strongest guys I had wrestled this year,” the senior Bryant said. “Instead of wrestling upper-body, which is my style, I tried to wrestle him lower-body. We was quicker than I was, but I was able to bait him. He stepped into me and I threw him and it went in my favor.
“I’ve been wrestling with this team for three years, and this is the best team we’ve ever had.”
The Rams’ Paul Mefford won a first-round injury default over Aaron Ashford at 220.
Cleveland got forfeits for Ryan Flores at 106, Chandler Daughtry at 113, Derrick Applewhite at 120, Shane Pilkington at 160 and Quintin Ross at 170.