CLAYTON — It hasn’t taken Cleveland long to experience the good times, as well as the tough times, in the 2013-2014 wrestling season.
Tuesday night provided both for the Rams and Coach Scott Riley as Cleveland posted a pair of victories to open its season.
The relatively easy 58-18 victory came in the tri-meet opener over a short-handed Eastern Wayne of the Eastern Carolina 3A Conference.
The tough times raised its head for the Two Rivers 3A Conference member in the nightcap of a 47-35 triumph over Harnett Central of the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference. Harnett Central easily took care of Eastern Wayne in the middle match of the night.
“We’re going to be pretty strong in the lower weight classes,” Riley said. “But we are going to be younger than we were last year.”
Riley’s comment was evident in the match with Harnett Central, where the Rams built a 41-17 lead through the light and middleweights, then had to get a meet-clinching pin from Chanse Wallace at 220 pounds to hold off the Trojans’ surge.
A pinfall win in that weight, the final one of the meet, would have tied the score and sent the determination of the overall winner to the rule book and a criteria search.
The Rams return 20 from last year’s roster; when the members of the football team join, that total will jump to 36.
Riley isn’t in any hurry for those grapplers to arrive, though, since he is a member of the coaching staff for the football team, which has advanced to the second round of the NCHSAA 3AA playoffs.
While those potential roster members continue to excel on the gridiron, the Rams will be led by Derrick Applewhite, Jhavonte Moon and Chanse Wallace, all state qualifiers on last year’s 20-7 team.
Applewhite got his season off to a solid start with a pair of wins, stopping Eastern Wayne’s Brice Heller in five minutes, 11 seconds, and securing a 15-0 technical fall victory over Harnett Central’s Cary Brown.
Wallace picked up a major decision victory in his season lid-lifter, defeating the Warriors’ Bryan Warren, 18-6, at 285 pounds, and then securing his pinfall win over Bruce Espinosa in 5:10. Moon was the only member of the trio to earn a pair of pins, stopping Eastern Wayne’s Julian Bruton in 3:06 and Harnett Central’s Noah Ray in 2:49.
“We’re working on getting the basics down and improving our technique,” Riley said. “The younger guys are coming around. These matches are more for improvement on their skills, timing and adjustments on the mat.”
The Rams benefited from four forfeit victories, along with a double-forfeit from the Warriors en route to the 58-18 route.
Eastern Wayne surrendered forfeits at 138, 152, 170, 182 and 195 pounds, giving the Rams 24 points in walkovers and breaking open a tight 22-18 match.
Eastern Wayne built a 12-4 lead wrapping pins at 225 and 106 pounds around Wallace’s major decision. But the Rams responded with first-period pins from Cameron Marquess at 113 and Adam Collins at 120 to give Cleveland a 16-12 lead.
The Warriors claimed their last lead at 18-16 with a pin at 126 – Eastern Wayne’s last win of the meet.
Josiah Evans picked up the remaining pin for the Rams, stopping Kevin Tove in 5:43.
The lower weights carried the Rams to their 41-17 lead over the Harnett Central Trojans.
In addition to Moon and Wallace, Collins (120); Marquess (113); Matthew Cruz (132); and Dillon Day (285) earned pinfall wins.
Josiah Evans picked up a win by disqualification at 145 pounds. But the Trojans used their upper weight advantages to secure three consecutive falls, trimming Cleveland’s margin to 41-35 prior to Wallace’s win.