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There was no doubt the Fike High wrestling team was on a mission Saturday as the Golden Demons hosted their fourth annual Demon Duals tournament.
With head coach Mike Wickham, who started the tournament in 2014, in hospice care in Goldsboro as he continues his battle with cancer, Fike won all four of its matches to reign as champion of its tournament.
“It feels good to be able to do it for my coach,” said Demons senior Linton Holmes, one of five Fike wrestlers to go unbeaten on the day. “We beat everybody convincingly.”
Fike downed C.B. Aycock 57-21 and defeated Clayton 66-15 in its three-team pod. The Demons moved into the championship round-robin pod where they faced their closest call against 3-A Big East Conference rival Southern Nash. Late pins by sophomore Garrett Weaver and freshman Vincent Page helped seal the 48-33 win and then Fike toppled defending champion Cleveland 50-25 for a clean sweep.
“I definitely feel like they left it all on the mat because that’s what they wanted to for for Mike,” said Bradley Watson, one of two former Fike wrestlers along with Randall Herring, who is helping Demons interim coach George Bancroft coach the team in Wickham’s absence.
“We have a strong coaching staff in the room and very experienced people around us,” said Holmes. “They keep us focused as best they can but it’s tough without Coach (Wickham) there.”
Holmes, wrestling at 145 pounds, registered three pins and claimed one forfeit victory while sophomore Aaron Bancroft (170) pinned two foes and picked up a pair of forfeit wins. Sophomore Taylor Gay (126) collected wins by fall against C.B. Aycock and Clayton before earning a forfeit win versus Southern Nash and claiming a major decision in the match against Cleveland.
Seniors Joseph Speight, Blake Edwards, William Harris and Henry Escamilla each went 3-1 on the day for Fike. Speight had two pins and a forfeit at 170 while narrowly losing an 8-5 decision at 182 pounds to Southern Nash’s Vyshaun Richardson, a state tournament qualifier last season. Edwards lost a 14-7 decision to Clayton’s Noah Johns at 113 but claimed a major decision victory and won another decision as well as a forfeit. Escamilla, at 160 pounds, racked up three pins before dropping a 3-1 decision to Cleveland’s Zachary Lejnar. Harris pinned Aycock’s William Carter in 12 seconds before taking forfeit victories against Clayton and Cleveland in between losing by fall to Southern Nash’s Luke Coble.
Impressive were Page and Weaver in pinning all four of their opponents. Weaver pulled out a thrilling win by fall against Southern Nash’s Ryan Flippin with just nine seconds remaining in their 132-pound match before Page pinned Isaiah Bland in 2 minutes, 14 seconds at 138 to assure Fike of the win. Earlier in the match, sophomore Jahmez Settles pinned his 106-pound foe Johnathan Salazar with one second left to cut the Firebirds’ lead to 21-15.
The Firebirds went 2-2, beating Southern Wayne 66-12 and North Pitt 57-21 before losing to Cleveland 51-24 and then Fike.
Aycock, which narrowly lost to Clayton 41-39 to go 0-2 in the first round, came back to beat Nash Central 66-9 and Southern Wayne 64-18. Seniors Austin Doyle and Zach Creel each went 4-0 with Doyle finishing with a 14-1 career mark at the Demon Duals.
“Overall, we saw an improvement in the kids today. Compared from our last outing, there was an improvement across the board, which is encouraging,” said CBA head coach Brian Doyle, who noted the efforts of sophomore T’Shon Swinson and junior Devin Maldonado.
Maldonado, sophomore Canon Barrett and freshman William Carter each finished 3-1.
Hunt defeated Nash Central 66-18 but lost its other three matches — 36-30 to Clayton, 48-34 to Cleveland and 51-24 to North Pitt. No further details were available on the Warriors’ other matches.
For the victorious Demons, Saturday’s performance was a solid tune-up for a season they hope will end at the state tournament in Greensboro for a number of them.
“We’re looking forward to those bigger tournaments to get ready for the states,” Holmes said.
While they all miss the Wickham, Holmes said he continues to inspire them.
“We need to stay strong for him,” he said.