PITTSBORO — The Seaforth wrestling team had glory on their minds, but lead in its shoulders. After advancing to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association team dual state tournament for the first time in the school’s short history Saturday afternoon, the Hawks lost a 36-34 heart-breaker to Manteo which bounced them from their chase for the crown.
Wrestling on their home mats, the No. 4 seed Hawks dominated Pitt County’s Ayden-Grifton, 54-25, in the first round, while Dare County’s No. 6 Manteo crushed Pasquotank County foe Northeastern, 70-9, in the first round to set up the second round match.
Although Seaforth and Manteo each won seven individual bouts, five of the Hawks’ upper weight wrestlers were unable to stay off their backs, handing their opponents 30 bonus points that determined the outcome. Seaforth collected only four wins by fall for 24 bonus points.
“We’re a championship-caliber team and we just can’t stay off our back,” said a dejected Seaforth coach Ryan Armstrong. “We’ve been fighting with the boys all year: If we don’t get pinned, we win. If we get them in that third period we win. … There’s no reason we’re not going into the third round.”
In a team showdown replete with “what-ifs,” Alex Hinchman at 170 and Palmer Moad at 285 were both controlling their bouts, but both ended up decked. Had they won, there would have been at least an 18-point shift in the scoring, giving the Hawks an easy victory.
The outcome also could have been different if 145-pound standout freshman Keira Rosenmarkle had been in the lineup. Armstrong held her out of competition after she had a bruising women’s regional tournament where she captured gold Thursday. He wanted to make sure she was healthy and focused for this weekend’s state tournament, and substituted Caden Brewer in the lineup.
“It probably would have made a difference with her in the lineup today,” Armstrong said. “Caden wrestled very hard, but came up just short.”
The Hawks also juggled their lower weights, which might have cost them points. Armstrong put backup Jordan Miller in at 106, moved Gabe Rogers up to 113, Josh Miller to 120, and Layne Armstrong to 126.
If Miller had been able to pin his opponent, Seaforth would have walked out of Saturday’s second round with the victory. Instead, he won by major decision against Thalia Aguirre Gomez, who qualified for the women’s state tournament with a bronze at Thursday’s East Regional Tournament.
“I think we underestimated her,” Armstrong said. “We probably could have made a different call (on who to put against her), but it was the call we made. I stick with it. I own it.”
Manteo jumped out to a 6-0 lead with wins at 145 and 152. Brewer fought Sam Cage to a 5-5 tie in the second period, but then gave up a pair of 3-point near falls and was outscored, 9-2, down the stretch to drop a 14-7 decision. At 152, William Bass tied Caleb Harris, 3-3, in the final period, but gave up the winning escape with seven seconds left in the bout.
At 160, Judge Lloyd upset Manteo’s Dylan Polatty, 11-7. Polatty is one of three 40-win members of the Manteo team and set the school’s career takedown record earlier this year. Lloyd fought back from a 7-2 second-period deficit, matching Polatty’s takedown output with two of his own. Lloyd also benefited from a locking hands penalty point, as well as two stalling points against Polatty.
Manteo then rattled off five straight wins to lead 36-3, starting with Jeremiah LaCentra decking Hinchman at 170. Hinchman was leading, 6-3, but got too high on his ride, reversed and pinned at 3:40. At 182, Seaforth’s Cole Seder suffered a 30-second fall to John Riley Perciful, a career 100-win wrestler, with more than 40 of those coming this year, and Manteo’s all-time pin leader with 35 entering the duals.
At 195, Nick Brewster, Manteo’s third 40-win wrestler this year, was locked in a 6-4 battle with Seaforth’s Harrison Compton when he hit a takedown and half-nelson for the pin at 5:24. Landon Spencer clamped Seaforth’s Zachary Klingel in 49 seconds at 220, and Manteo heavyweight Erlin Zavala showed Moad the lights at 5:17 after trailing 5-1 after two periods.
Seaforth won all the remaining matches. At 106, Jordan Miller scored five unanswered points in the third period with a double leg takedown and cradle for the 12-4 major decision over Gomez. Then, Rogers got a first period takedown against Ben Hajtun and slapped on a half nelson for a 36-second fall at 113, while 120-pounder Josh Miller rocked Hector Calderon to sleep with a cradle at 1:21 and Armstrong nailed a single leg against Zach Burgess at 126, slipped in a reverse half and trapped the far arm for a fall in 45 seconds.
Chance Cody picked up a pair of takedowns and a reversal for a 6-1 win over Jackson Donahue at 132, and Ben Johnson racked up four takedowns against Tony Domingo, snaking in a half nelson for a fall with just 3 seconds remaining in the bout.
“Ben was getting pinned at the beginning of the year, and he really turned it on,” Armstrong said.
SEAFORTH 54, AYDEN-GRIFTON 25
Starting at 138, Johnson dropped a 3-0 decision to the Chargers’ Conor Loflin, and Ben Allen pinned the Hawks’ Caden Brewer at 145 to jump out to a 9-0 lead. William Bass got Seaforth on the board at 152 despite trailing the entire bout, as he reversed Sawyer Norville, loaded up a reverse half and decked his opponent at 5:10.
“I kind of thought I was gone, but coach was saying keep going. Keep fighting. Don’t give up,” Bass said. “So I just kept going. I kind of just got his head and tried to turn him.”
Lloyd gave the Hawks their first team lead, 12-9, when he powered through a double leg trip for a takedown and fall with a half nelson against 160-pounder Dashawn Folks at 2:44. Hinchman extended the lead to 18-9 at 170 when he crushed Keaton Guthrie with a far side cradle for a fall at 2:42.
Cole Seder won by forfeit at 182 to push the Hawks’ lead to 24-9, but at 195 Ayden-Grifton’s Jack Ewell earned a 16-7 major decision against Roger Eubanks. At 220, Compton widened Seaforth’s lead to 30-13, picking up a pair of second-period near falls before hammering a power half to flip Nasir Ingram to his back, switching to a reverse half for the fall.
Moad led Josh McCoy the entire 285-pound match, but was twice called for stalling before getting taken down, getting turned to his back and giving up the ghost with a half-minute remaining, as the Chargers crept to within 30-19.
The Hawks breezed to a trio of falls and a 48-19 lead in response. Rogers decked Makayla Wallace in 31 seconds at 106, Josh Miller used a balance check into a half nelson for a second period fall at 113 and Armstrong squeezed a headlock onto Bailor Peebles to end the 120-pound bout at 5:37.
Cody ended the match on a high note for the Hawks at 132. Trailing 8-2 in the final period against Jemarion Folks, Cody came standing, Folks fell backwards, and the Hawk pounced, lacing up a double grapevine and double underhook for the fall at 5:48.