Rocky Mount High qualified seven wrestlers for the NCHSAA 3-A state tournament, pulled the biggest upset of the day and finished second in the East Region.
Yet the Gryphons came away disappointed with their team performance at the Eastern Regionals on Saturday at Rocky Mount High School.
Rocky Mount finished two points away from a regional championship in large part because one of their wrestlers failed to make weight during Saturday’s weigh-in, causing him to forfeit all his matches, and another Gryphon was upset by a familiar foe.
“We should have won,” Rocky Mount coach Jermaine Jones said. “... But we did finish with seven guys going to states. That’s the most I’ve ever had.”
The Gryphons had two wrestlers – Alex Knight at 145 pounds and Anthony Battle at 170 – win regional championships.
Battle came into the regionals as a No. 11 seed but pulled four upsets to win a weight class in which the No. 1 seed withdrew because of an injury.
After winning by one in overtime in the semifinals, Battle broke a four-all tie with a takedown in the final 10 seconds of the final against Tevin Melton of Jacksonville to win, 6-4.
Despite the seeding, Battle didn’t see his impressive Saturday as an upset.
“I thought I was going to be in the top six (seeds) when the bracket came out,” Battle said. “I was just trying to win the whole thing no matter what seed I was.”
Knight, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, dominated the 145-pound class. The senior controlled every match in which he participated, winning, 10-4, in the semifinals and 7-1 in the finals.
The win sent Knight to 53-1 on the season and gave him the East’s No. 1 seed at the state tournament this week.
“Pretty much everything has been going right, I guess,” said Knight, who finished second in the state last season. “I won conference and regionals. It’s just states now.”
Southern Nash had five wrestlers of its own qualify for the state meet, including fifth-seeded Travis Collins, who beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 seeds on the way to winning the regional title at 195 pounds.
Collins trailed, 3-0, against No. 1 seed Keyaad Coley of Rocky Mount in the semifinals. Coley – noted for his defensive ability – had beaten Collins three times previously this season.
“He’s a defensive wrestler. He knows how to center his weight and keep you away from him,” Collins said of Coley. “After he gets points, it’s hard.”
Collins rallied, however, winning the next five points and sending Coley to the consolation bracket.
“That probably was the biggest downfall for us right there,” Jones said. “If he wins his match like he’s supposed to, we’d be in first place.”
Collins dominated the final, racing out to an 8-0 edge against Jamel Barrett of Eastern Wayne and winning the 195 title.
“Travis just battles,” Southern Nash coach Eddie Cobble said. “Sometimes he has his mental lapses out there and forgets where he’s at, but he doesn’t even think anything about it. He just keeps going and chugging along.”
The Firebirds had three wrestlers qualify through the consolation bracket, including 152-pound Jacoby Benjamin, who had to withdraw from the third place match because of a shoulder injury.
Benjamin said he’ll be fine for the state tournament.
“I’m going to go,” Benjamin said. “If they have to put a cast on me or whatever, it doesn’t matter. I’m not missing states.”
The Firebirds finished tied for fifth place.
Xavier Anistead at 145 pounds was the only state qualifier for Northern Nash, which finished 20th out of 23 teams.
Nash Central, which did not have a qualifier, finished 22nd.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or email@example.com