FRANKLINTON -- No one was blaming Corinth Holders’ 220-pound senior Elijah Harris for what was happening on the mat in the Franklinton High School gymnasium Saturday afternoon. Still, Harris heeded the advice of Pirates coach Eric Wischhusen, to be a man in the face of chaos and emotion.
By being that type of man, Harris went on to secure a 10-8 victory over Bunn's Justin “Tank” Williams, en route to perfect a 5-0 day and the championship in the Northern Carolina 2A Individual Championships.
Harris's championship was one of eight earned by Pirates wrestlers and a total of 11 by Johnston County grapplers in the dual-team tournament format, which saw the six wrestling members of the conference engage in round-robin competition.
Individual championships were based on the best overall record posted by the wrestler in his respective weight class in the round-robin matches.
Harris built an early 6-1 lead over Williams in the battle of state-ranked wrestlers, with Williams, No. 3 among 2A grapplers at 220, and Harris No. 4.
That lead included a three-point near-fall by Harris, who kept Williams on his back for 15 seconds, while most of the spectators and wrestlers yelled their encouragement.
But Williams scored an escape, and began to tie up Harris, forcing him out of bounds into Harris's head, then turned his attention to bull-rush after bull-rush, which elicited stalling calls against Harris by the match official. This enticed the Pirates faithful, as Williams attempted to get into Harris' head with the tactic.
Williams continued his offensive assault, trimming the deficit to 8-7, but Harris notched a takedown with 12 seconds left, allowing Williams only an escape with 1.5 seconds remaining and a 10-8 win.
“That was a fun match," Wischhusen said. " The whole place was rocking - when you get that kind of an atmosphere for a wrestling match. That's why I coach."
Wischhusen said he told Harris to be a man in the match.
“That's what I want you to be, I told him,” Wischhusen said. "Don't let this stuff get to you, don't let it bother you, don't get into the name-calling and fighting stuff.“You're out here to wrestle: wrestle good and hard and leave it on the mat.”
Also taking championships for the Pirates were Darius Dunn (106), Dustin Brennan (113), Cameron Brewer (126), Tyler Johnson (138), Matt Duncan (152), Charlie Gray (160) and Jason Gonzalez (170).
In addition to winning weight individual weight class titles, Corinth Holders emerged from the round-robin competition with a 5-0 record, including 62-17 victory over North Johnston in pushing its season ledger to 38-4.
North Johnston, despite fielding just nine wrestlers in the tournament, picked up three titlists - Dyllan Creech (132), Eric Joyner (145) and Hunter Stephenson (195) - all, like the Pirates champions, forging 5-0 worksheets.
The Panthers finished the day with a 3-2 dual meet worksheet to complete their dual season with a 13-22 overall record.