One year after missing its shot to win the Eastern Region, Rocky Mount High left no doubt this time.
Six Gryphons made the finals of their weight class and two came home with regional championships, an effort that put Rocky Mount 22.5 points ahead of the field on the way to a comfortable NCHSAA 3-A Eastern Regional title Sunday at Rocky Mount High School.
Freshman Wilson Smith, the 120-pound champion, is believed to be the first freshman wrestler in school history to win a regional title, and he was voted Most Outstanding Wrestler of the regional in a poll of all coaches at the tournament.
Smith is 51-1 this season, a record that Rocky Mount coach Jermaine Jones said has been helped by practicing against a good team at Rocky Mount.
“He (has) got guys he can’t muscle, so that forced him to learn,” Jones said. “The weight class he’s in, he’s strong for it, but also he’s a great technician. He’s going to be even greater, man. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with him.”
Smith, the No. 1 seed, beat his club wrestling teammate, Zovek Chapa of Wilson Fike, in a 1-0 final in which both wrestlers knew each other well.
Neither Smith nor Chapa could take control of the match, but Smith was able to find a slight edge based upon what he had learned in training.
“We wrestle all the time during summertime,” Smith said. “We know each others’ weaknesses, so it was a good match. I knew he can’t keep me down. I know that for sure because he couldn’t ever keep me down last summer, so I used that to my advantage.”
Southern Nash finished third in the region and qualified five wrestlers for the state championship meet, which begins Thursday in Greensboro.
The Firebirds lost three starting wrestlers in a three-week span earlier this season. Two were injured and one quit the team, but Southern Nash was able to place even with a slightly different group from the one it had expected.
“I feel really good about that way the season’s finishing up, especially with us fighting through injuries, guys quitting, guys not making weight,” Southern Nash coach Eddie Coble said. “It’s tough, but that’s the way wrestling is.”
No. 1 seed Jordan Decosse came away with a 126-pound regional title for the Firebirds and improved his record to 46-3 on the season. Paired against sixth-seeded Xavier Ross of Jacksonville in the finals, Coble said Decosse stuck with his normal routine of working himself into the match.
Decosse controlled the pace, rarely had to play defense and eventually asserted control over Ross, gaining a pin at 5:10.
“He got on top, and I just think he wore the other kid down,” Coble said. “He couldn’t get out, and I think he kind of gave up once Jordan got him on his back.”
Joseph Cooper of Rocky Mount won the 152-pound championship with a 4-1 victory against Javar Godette of Havelock. Cooper controlled most of the match and was able to protect a lead in the third period to improve to 33-2 this season.
Three Northern Nash wrestlers and one Nash Central wrestler qualified for the state championship meet.
The Knights and Bulldogs finished 15th and 19th, respectively, out of 23.
For the Gryphons, there is a short break before trying for a bigger championship this week. With a state championship in mind, Jones said he knew what his team has to do this week.
“We don’t need to rest. I can tell you that,” Jones said. “These next two days, we still gotta condition, still gotta get in the wrestling room. We have to do some things to keep our conditioning, because I think that’s the biggest problem is we’ve been out with the snow. We wrestle better when we’re conditioned.”
Rocky Mount High 136; Swansboro 114.5; Southern Nash 106.5 ... Northern Nash 48 (15th) ... Nash Central 27 (19th).
120 – Wilson Smith (RMH) d. Zovek Chapa (Wilson Fike), 1-0; 125 – Jordan Decosse (SN) d. Xavier Ross (Jacksonville), 5:10 pin; 145 – Jhavonte Moon (Clayton Cleveland) d. Rahshaun Elliott (RMH) 5:51 pin; 152 – Joseph Cooper (RMH) d. Javar Godette (Havelock), 4-1; 160 – John Ellis (Havelock) d. Jacoby Benjamin (SN), 4-2; 170 – Dalton Hill (W. Craven) d. Steven Joyner (NC), 15-0 maj. dec.; 195 – Wood Mancuso (W. Carteret) d. Keyaad Coley (RMH), 3:55 pin; 220 – Trent Allen (S. Brunswick) d. Alberto Jorge (RMH); 285 – Joseph Sculthorpe (Topsail) d. Jeffery Person (RMH), 2-1.
State qualifiers: Dakota Medina, Southern Nash (106, 4th); Wilson Smith, Rocky Mount High (120, 1st); Jordan Decosse, Southern Nash (126, 1st); Rahshaun Elliott, Rocky Mount High (145, 2nd); Joseph Cooper, Rocky Mount High (152, 1st); Clinton Whitaker, Southern Nash (152, 4th); Jacoby Benjamin, Southern Nash (160, 2nd); Kendal Hamilton, Northern Nash (160, 4th); Steven Joyner, Nash Central (170, 2nd); Keyaad Coley, Rocky Mount High (195, 2nd); Paulo Sanchez, Northern Nash (195, 3rd); Alberto Jorge, Rocky Mount High (220, 2nd); Ryan Ashley, Southern Nash (220, 3rd); Jeffery Person, Rocky Mount High (285, 2nd); Jamahl Harris, Northern Nash (285, 3rd).
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com