BAILEY – Even though Southern Nash made school history last year on the wrestling mat, the Firebirds know they failed to reach one of their bigger goals.
After making the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A state dual team playoffs last year for the first time in school history, the Firebirds still felt empty, having missed out on the Big East Conference title.
Still undefeated this year after a 49-28 victory against Northern Nash on Wednesday at Southern Nash High School, the Firebirds know that a conference title is within their grasp.
“We’re kind of tired of Northern (Nash) and Rocky Mount ruling the roost,” Southern Nash coach Eddie Coble said. “We want to kind of have our part in it. I think the guys want it just as bad.”
Southern Nash (12-5, 4-0 Big East) will face defending champion Rocky Mount High on Jan. 22. A convincing victory against a conference rival Wednesday is a step in the right direction.
“It just gives us confidence,” Coble said. “... Hopefully, it gives us a little momentum. It’s all about getting better.”
The Firebirds took an early lead in Wednesday’s dual team matchup based solely on numbers – and not from take down points.
Northern Nash (6-10, 1-3) forfeited the first two matches at 106 and 113 pounds. Through the first seven matches, the Knights earned just one victory and lost six points in each of the other matches.
“If you give somebody 12 points, you’re not going to win,” Northern Nash coach Corey Mercer said.
Northern Nash, which Mercer said is exceptionally young, fared well in the matches it wrestled. The Knights won five of the seven matches, went to overtime in one of its losses and was upset at heavyweight.
“It’s about getting better, and I think we got better from it,” Mercer said.
Both coaches knew before match that 160 pounds would be key.
The Firebirds’ Jacoby Benjamin, who made the state tournament last year and is one of the team’s senior leaders this year, was pushed to overtime by Kendal Hamilton after a pair of reversals and an escape in the final 53 seconds of the third period.
With a quick rotation of his hips, Benjamin scored an overtime take down for the sudden-death win, and Southern Nash fed off of his victory.
“I try to lead by example,” Benjamin said. “I know that if I go out there and give my all and win, then they’re looking to me and what to do the same thing. I just go out there, every match, and wrestle hard.”
Benjamin and Hamilton’s match was the only one that came down to a regular decision, and nine of the matches were decided by pin or technical fall.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com