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CLAYTON — Just five years ago, Fike High had one wrestler to qualify for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship tournament. On Saturday, the Golden Demons not only got seven qualifiers for next week’s NCHSAA 3-A championship tournament in Greensboro, but seniors Jahmez Settles and Aaron Bancroft and junior Jayleen Bullock all won weight-class titles at the 3-A East Regional tournament at Cleveland High.
Joining them are senior Garrett Weaver, juniors Vince Page and Patrick McCullen and freshman Barrett Klutey — each of whom finished third after disappointing losses in the semifinals.
“It just speaks a lot to me, to think that once they lost, they never thought it was over,” Fike head coach Bradley Watson said. “They knew they could battle back. It wasn’t just a matter of placing in the top four, but to take third. That excites me more: To have our whole team take either third or first.”
Fike, which has sent five wrestlers to the state tournament each of the last three years, is believed to be the first Wilson County team to place seven since Hunt sent eight grapplers to the state 3-A tournament in 2003. Beddingfield had seven to qualify in 1982, when current Demons assistant coach George Bancroft was an assistant coach on the Bruins squad.
Settles got the ball rolling for the Demons when he seized his first regional title with two pins and then a 13-1 major decision over Topsail’s Ethan Blevins in the 106-pound final.
“I think he’s peaking at the right time,” Watson said.
Bancroft breezed to his third regional title, pinning all three 170-pound opponents, including the last two in less than 42 seconds each. Bancroft, who became Fike’s first state champion when he won the 160-pound title last season, ran his record to 47-0 this season.
Bullock also seized his first regional championship by winning all three of his matches by fall, including a pin in 3:28 of top-seeded Saevyon McCray of West Brunswick in the final.
For good measure, the Demons also won the regional team title, clipping familiar foe C.B. Aycock by 23 points. It was the third individual tournament in which Fike and Aycock have finished first and second, respectively, this season and just last week, the Demons downed the Golden Falcons in the state 3-A dual-team quarterfinals.
“Aycock’s a great team,” Watson said. “They really are but I think it’s kind of become a friendly, competitive rivalry and fortunately, this year, we’ve been the ones to come out on top — but I say that out of complete respect.”
The Falcons had their own regional champions in seniors Christian Decatur and Tyler Hughes, but also had three other state qualifiers in Canon Barrett, Omar Tucker and Turner Bass. Southern Nash will send Terrence Raspberry, Luke Coble and Jadel Davis while Hunt will be represented by Chris Silva.
Fike totaled 163 points to win the 27-team tournament while CBA was next with 140, followed by Topsail (134), West Carteret (113.5) and Havelock to round out the top five. Southern Nash was 10th with 98.5 points and Hunt placed 17th with 30.
The situation didn’t look rosy at all for Fike after the semifinals were completed. While Page lost to North Brunswick’s Yoel Del Rio in the 152-pound semis, the outlook seemed better for McCullen and Weaver. However, both lost their semifinals matches and, to make matters worse, McCullen, who had been nursing a sore ankle since the end of the regular season, injured his shoulder. But McCullen gritted out a 2-1 decision of Franklin Melton of Clayton to ensure no worse than a fourth-place finish and then claimed an 8-5 decision over Havelock’s Xavier McCullough for third place.
“That is a tough kid. I think it’s going to take a lot more than that to keep him down,” Watson said.
Klutey and Weaver each took third at 113 and 138, respectively, and then Page finished third at 152, all but ensuring the Demons would rule as regional champions.
Aycock’s unbeaten senior duo of Decatur and Hughes continued unblemished campaigns. Decatur, a two-time 1-A state champion at Rosewood the last two years, went 4-0 with a pin and three technical fall victories to raise his record to 59-0 on the season with his 150th consecutive win. Decatur has 234 victories in his career, ranking him among the state’s all-time leaders. Colton Palmer of Durham Riverside ranks first in NCHSAA annals with a 284-6 mark between 2003-07.
But when Barrett and Tucker had to settle for runner-up finishes at 120 and 132, respectively, after Bass lost to Fike’s Bullock in the 195-pound semis, Aycock’s hopes for a regional title dimmed. Bass forfeited the third-place match to Hunt’s Silva (37-7), making his first trip to the state tourney.
Southern Nash’s Raspberry won his first two matches before being pinned by Topsail’s Alex Jones at the 3:54 mark of their 220-pound final. Davis rebounded from a semifinals loss at 182 pounds to win an 8-3 decision over Fike junior Zametrie Bagley in the consolation semifinals. With a state berth in hand, Davis then downed South Brunswick’s Noah Atkinson 6-2 for third place.
Coble lost in the quarterfinals then won three straight elimination matches before falling to D.H. Conley’s Troy Weaver in the 170-pound third-place match.
2-A EAST REGIONAL
North Johnston sends 2 to state tourney
NEWPORT — North Johnston senior Justin Richardson and senior Alton Pratt each finished third in their respective weight classes Saturday at the NCHSAA 2-A East Regional at Croatan High.
Richardson won his first two matches at 152 pounds before dropping a 10-4 decision to eventual champion Colton Sullivan of Croatan in the semifinals. Richardson (44-9) then pulled out a 6-4 win against Southwest Onslow’s Ezekiel Jones to clinch a state berth before taking third place when Nash Central’s Brittain Marks exited with an injury.
Pratt (40-8) needed two wins at 285 pounds, including a 3-2 decision over Clinton’s Oscar Bennett in the consolation final.