MILLERS CREEK - In a tournament dominated by three-time defending state champion West Wilkes, Yadkin County schools had their shinning moments Saturday at the Mountain Valley Conference meet.
Young Starmount and Forbush squads placed two wrestlers each in their respective finals, finishing with four silver medals combined.
“It was a good overall effort,” Starmount head coach David Oliver said. “I think the kids that placed in the finals could have won. They gave good effort - the wrestling was there. But I think we felt a little emotionally drained after what’s happened over the last couple weeks.”
For the Rams, Benton Branch surprised the 160-pound bracket by reaching the final. Branch upset No. 1-seeded Luke Wagoner (North Wilkes) in the semifinals to punch his ticket.
In the championship bout against Wilkes Central’s Evan Adams, Branch hit a takedown to grab an early 2-0 lead. But a reversal and a escape gave Adams a 3-2 edge.
Adams completed the comeback, recording a pin with just under a minute left in the second period.
“Branch was a little unexpected as a junior. He beat the No. 1 seed in the semifinals, who pinned him earlier in the year. He was very competitive in the championship match, but got caught,” Oliver said.
Starmount senior Michael Wood looked to add a statement to his impressive senior campaign.
Wood, who came into the tournament with a 34-1 mark, recorded a tech fall and a pin to reach the 182-pound championship match Saturday.
In the finals, Wood took on Ashe County’s William Miller (32-5). Miller recorded four takedowns in the bout, including two in the second period, to bring home the individual title 8-4.
“Wood was as expected. Miller is a real good, technical wrestler and kept him on his feet. He didn’t really get to wrestle his kind of match,” Oliver said.
Marco Fuentes and Cody Leonard added third-place finishes for Starmount.
For the Falcons, Storm Long powered his way to the 126-pound final.
In the championship bout, Long ran into West’s Jake St. Germain, last year’s state runner-up. St. Germain recorded a takedown in the opening period before hitting a reversal in the second for a 4-0 lead.
A bloody nose doomed Long, who couldn’t overcome the injury or the slow start, as St. Germain won 8-0 for the individual title.
Dylan Edwards battled East Wilkes’ Zack Faircloth in the 195-pound final looking for a championship for the Falcons.
Faircloth started quickly, jumping out to a 4-0 lead on a takedown and back points before Edwards fought back. Two escapes brought the junior within two at 4-2.
But Faircloth recorded two more takedowns to pull away, winning 9-2.
Despite the two silver medals, Starmount (54.5) and Forbush (48) came in eighth- and ninth-place, respectively, in the final team standings.
Conference teams will now prepare for the West Regional, scheduled for February 23. Oliver said the Rams will have a “tough regional” but several wrestlers will be “right there to qualify.”
“Wood will have to compete against Miller and Parker Von Egidy from Piedmont. He’ll have to battle through them and a couple other guys to place top four to qualify for state,” he said. “He can do it, but he’ll have to work hard these next two weeks to get ready.
“Ian Fennell at 170 has a good opportunity. The regional is set up nicely for Garrett Stokes at 220 to slide in. Leonard and Fuentes have an opportunity to qualify,” Oliver continued. “They’re all going to be right there in that consolation semifinal match or the finals to qualify for state. It’s a very tough regional down there. So you’re going to have to win those tough one- and two-point matches to qualify.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.