On a day which started with so many unknowns, North Central High wrestling coach Jason Brazell received many answers he was looking for on Saturday.
With his program hosting the inaugural 10-team Knight Duals, Brazell found himself having to help run the one-day event while also coaching up a young team which became even less-experienced as the hosts were minus one senior starter who was taking the SAT exam in Camden, and another senior who was out due to illness.
With a team made up of 10 freshmen and sophomores, the Knights came in third place in an event which was won by perennial AAA state power Chapin. The Eagles downed Cheraw in the finals while the tournament hosts pounded fellow Region 3-AA entry Keenan, 52-22, in the third-place match.
“I’m starting a real young team with seven freshmen and three sophomores; 80 percent of the team is underclassmen,” Brazell said. “I was real pleased with our effort in this tournament, especially with our team being so young.”
The Knights opened the day by taking apart Central of Pageland, 53-17, with NC’s Hunter Covington (106 pounds) and Matt Frazier (113) being the recipients of forfeits. NC received pins from Nathan Gomez (126), Ricky Hinson (132), Robert Hardin (138) and Deaunte Samuel at 182 pounds. Justin Witmore, a returning state qualifier, won his 170-pound match by a 4-2 decision.
Rival Andrew Jackson, which like Central will be in North Central’s region next season, was next and the Knights pounded the Volunteers by a 59-21 count. AJ forfeited matches at 106, 113, 120 and 126 pounds to give their nearby rivals 24 free points.
On the mat against AJ, the hosts received pins from Tyler Small at 152 pounds, Hardin (138) and Samuel (182). Witmore won his 170-pound contest via injury default.
The Knights’ lone setback came in a 52-24 loss to Chapin in a pairing in which Hardin was awarded a forfeit at 138 before Zach Anderson won by pin at 145 as did Witmore (170) and Samuel (182)
NC improved to 3-1 on the day by dismantling a house team, which helped event the entry list be squared at 10 teams. In that one-sided victory, wins went to Covington (pin at 113), Frazier (pin, 120), Johnny Harrison (forfeit, 132), Hardin (forfeit, 138), Anderson (pin, 145), Small (pin, 152), Witmore (pin, 170), Samuel (pin, 182), Tristan Gomez (decision, 195) and Khalid Belton (forfeit, heavyweight).
The Knights had a chance to see a conference opponent in the day’s finale and scoring a 30-point win over Keenan.
“This tournament helped us out by seeing a couple of teams from our conference in Keenan and Eau Claire (who NC did not wrestle against) on Saturday,” Brazell said.
In the victory over the Raiders, NC recorded seven pins with those coming from Frazier (113), Nathan Gomez (120), Hinson (126), Hardin (138), Anderson (145), Samuel (182) and Tristan Gomez (195). Small won his 152-pound match by a technical fall while Witmore was given a forfeit by the Raiders.
Samuel, a freshman, finished with a 5-0 mark on the mat for the day at 182 pounds. Hardin, a sophomore 138-pounder, was 5-0 with a forfeit as was Witmore, a 170-pound senior.
Brazell, whose team faced Andrew Jackson on Tuesday before heading to the two-day Mid-Carolina Credit Union Holiday Classic at Lugoff-Elgin on Friday, said he liked what he saw from his team in the tournament in Boonetown.
“This was a good test for us to get our season rolling,” he said of the Knight Duals. “We were able to see some of the teams in our region wrestle and it also gave some of our freshmen a chance to get in some action and give them some experience that they’re going to need down the road.”