PIKEVILLE -- Cleveland has quickly emerged as a power in the 3A wrestling ranks, and on Saturday the Rams added another feather to their caps.
The Rams had four repeat champions and four new winners, easily winning the Eastern Carolina 3A individual wrestling championships for the first time.
On Saturday the Rams blew past second-place Triton with 271 points to the Hawks’ 201 in the round-robin event in which as many as six wrestlers met everyone in his weight class.
Host C.B. Aycock finished third with 193.5, followed by Eastern Wayne at 139, Southern Wayne at 53 and South Johnston – under first-year coach Jason Warren – with 33.5. The other conference member, North Lenoir, does not sponsor a wrestling team.
All eight of Cleveland’s champions were unbeaten on Saturday.
“I’m real happy about the performance,” Cleveland coach Scott Riley said. “I didn’t know if we’d have eight conference champions, but that was the goal. We were missing one of our wrestlers, so with 13 that was about as good as we could do. We knew the competition would be tough. Triton has some real good wrestlers who help them in tournament situations, and Aycock has a real good lineup.”
Cleveland’s Derrick Applewhite at 120, Chanse Wallace at 170, Blaine Bryant at 182 and Jacob Pickering at 195 all won ECC titles for the second straight year.
“This is another stepping stone,” said the junior Wallace, who is third in the state 3A rankings at his weight class and is 96-25 for his career. “My whole goal is to win a state championship and then win another one. I want to show that I can compete at that level.
“The whole team did well today, I thought. Eight out of 14 winners, you can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Rams’ Adam Collins at 113, Dakota Hill at 138, Jhavonte Moon at 145 and Bryer Rogers at 285 were all first-time winners.
“Everybody worked hard, and everybody won the big matches,” said the senior Hill, who is ranked seventh in the state. “We knew Aycock would be competitive with us and we won almost all the weight classes against them.”
Applewhite, Bryant, Hill, Rogers and Wallace had also won first places at the Johnston County championships a week earlier.
South Johnston coach Warren said that after putting a team together almost from scratch, he’s optimistic about the Trojans’ chances next season when they move with Cleveland to the new Two Rivers 3A.
“I had to recruit everybody except Eric Davidson, who was a returnee and has been a good leader,” Warren said. “Everybody else who had wrestled before had never finished the season. It’s still a rebuilding process and we’re learning a lot of stuff. I think in a couple of years we’ll be where we want to be.
“Cleveland has the kind of dedication level we have to have. Our kids don’t know what that takes yet. We’re trying to build that foundation back.”