Local Wrestlers ‘Grapple’ with Success

By Pete Zamplas

West Falcons root on their grappler, versus North Henderson in the quad meet at HHS. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

West Henderson wrestlers are undefeated, and East and North Henderson have also won most of their meets.

The four Henderson County public high school teams are “pinning” hopes on a blend of know-how and resolve. They showcased much skill and determination in a recent quad meet. That was in Hendersonville’s Jim Pardue Gymnasium on Jan. 3, the first Friday of the new decade. Each squad wrestled the other three teams. Two clashes went on at once, with two mats on the gym floor.

Unbeaten West (12-0 overall, 4-0 WMAC) won the quad, by beating the other three one at a time. The closest score was West’s opener. The Falcons edged Western Mountain Athletic Conference (WMAC) rival North Henderson by one point, at 35-34. The Falcons then defeated HHS 48-35, then beat East Henderson 54-21 for the sweep.

West head coach Michael Connelly is proud of his wrestlers’ preparation, match effort and unbeaten team results.
North Knights won two of three. They defeated East 42-27 in round two, then rolled HHS 52-28.

In the other opener, East Henderson took it to HHS 53-21, to go to 16-1 on the year before falling to North then West.

West-North Thriller

The close North-West opening meet had much drama and action. Will Parker defeated North’s Erik Perez in the 182-pound class, to clinch team victory for West. West thus afforded to forfeit two weight classes in the end.
That was after North got a quick pin by Jose Rios within a minute, in the 220-pound class.

The Knights took the first two matches. But West won the next two, to even it. First was Addison Speight’s pin, in the 120-pound limit class. Next was a pivotal decision in 126, for Solomon Jenks over Peyton Fincher. Each heaved the other wrestler to the mat, as action intensified.

War Eagles, Bearcats

On the the other mat, the East-HHS battle ended earlier than did West-North. Its finale was between two husky and bruising football linemen, in the 280-pound heavyweight division. Bearcat Trevor Musselwhite (who weighs 278 lb.) won 1-0, over Eagle Austin Buckner (281 lb.).

East’s pins were by Maybin Grant (126 1b. limit), Wesley Murray (145), Tanner Coggins (160) and Nathan Byrnside (182).

East War Eagles are on the warpath, under head coach Doug Lanning. They were 19-3 overall heading into a meet at Pisgah on Wednesday, Jan. 15, and unbeaten at 4-0 in the Mountain Six (M6) Conference. East beat M6 rival Smoky Mountain and also Patton and Asheville School in a quad meet last Friday. East was seventh out of 29 teams in the Falcon Frenzy a month ago.
Eva Keefauver won in the varsity women’s division. Gunner Marshall has attained All America status, with a runner-up finish in the Dixie Nationals.
Four freshmen have started at times for East this year. But Lanning notes they came out of a strong Flat Rock Middle program, giving them a head start in development.

Varsity Eagles are among area wrestlers who relish the chance to strike back against rivals in football and other sports.

Hendersonville head coach Michael Coggins is counting on continued improvement of his grapplers. The Bearcats are slated to wrestle this Saturday, Jan. 18 in the multi-school Ram Duals at T.C. Roberson, then Wednesday Jan. 22 in a quad meet at Travelers Rest, S.C.

The M6 wrestling tournament is at Brevard on Friday, Jan. 24.

Combat Knights

North Knight Peyton Fincher heaves Falcon Solomon Jenks, who would win the 126-pound match at right. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

North Henderson’s head coach is Heang Uy, a poised and prolific instructor. Wayne Nock is a fiery motivator, among very adept local assistant coaches. Most Knights graduated from last year’s elite squad, which placed nearly half (four of nine) of Kiwanis county wrestling all-stars for 2018-19.

But NHHS coaches like what they see in younger, developing Knights as well as veteran leadership.

Tristen Norris has already surpassed 100 wins in his third season. The junior wrestles usually in the 220 class, or else as a super heavyweight (280 lb. limit). A fierce football linebacker, the senior works hard in the weight room and is sculpted like Thor.

Norris won all five of his matches Jan. 4 at the Devildog Invitational, in Travelers Rest, S.C. This was the night after taking all three matches in the county quad meet; his pin propelled North into the lead over East.

Then Norris won both times last Thursday, Jan. 9, to reach 101 wins. This was in helping North thrash Tuscola 54-30 and edge host T.C. Roberson 42-37 in a tri-meet of WMAC teams. North improved to 10-5, including 2-1 in the WMAC.

Lady Knight Glennin Hansen was second in the female 112-pound class, last Saturday in the Science Hill meet at Johnson City, Tenn. The sophomore also stars on the Relentless Wrestling Club.

In the county quad meet, these five Knights were unbeaten at 3-0 for the night: Norris, Jose Rios, Tre’Von Hill (138), Henry Portela, and Lazaro Vasquez who is the reigning WMAC champ at 106. Hill, Matthew Clark, Peyton Cooper and Micheal Arrona each had pins vs. HHS. Hill was the team’s “Pin King” in the first week of the year. He registered five pins in nine minutes total, while Norris pinned five in 14:25.

The Knights are slated to host Enka this Friday, Jan. 17. On Saturday they are in Ram Duals with host Roberson, Reynolds, Erwin and HHS. NHHS wraps up the regular season at Reynolds Jan. 24 then at Asheville Jan. 28.

Falcons in Frenzy

In the super heavyweight 285-pound limit division, East’s Austin Buckner (281 lb.) on top tries to wrap up Bearcat Trevor Musselwhite (278 lb.). HHS head coach Michael Coggins, behind at right, leans in to check the action. Musselwhite won 1-0. But East won the overall team meet. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

West Henderson won the Smoky Mountain Grapple Wrestling Tournament in the huge U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville on the weekend before Christmas. Champs in weight divisions for West were Dillon Blackwell (113), Stephen Baynard (145) and football quarterback Auden Brennan (160) while Damon Landreth (106) was runner-up. Baynard was fourth at state in 145 last season.

West hosted the Falcon Frenzy Tournament Dec. 13-14. In WMAC play, West edged North Jan. 3 Then in a tri-meet Jan. 7, WHHS beat host Tuscola 39-27 and pummeled Asheville 62-15. West’s victory over A.C. Reynolds last Friday was on Alumni Night, when 17 prior Falcon grapplers were honored.

Will Parker lifts Erik Perez, to heave him to the mat as Falcon fans whoop it up. Parker’s win sealed the team victory for West, over North Henderson in a recent quad meet. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

West has a female wrestling team that meets other female squads. Lady Falcons beat Science Hill 28-24 late last week. Last season, then-sophomore Destiney Cairnes won gold in the state’s first-ever female-only wrestling invitational tourney — round-robin matches, in her 132-pound class.

West’s main wrestling squad is at Kings Mountain Saturday, in a tri-meet at Roberson with North Buncombe early next week, then takes on Enka on Thursday, Jan. 23.

The Falcons host the WMAC tournament, on
Saturday, Feb. 1.

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