Panthers take home county championship title
By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, January 20, 2019
All six Pitt County high schools descended on D.H. Conley Saturday morning to determine which wrestlers were the best of the best. Over the course of five and a half hours, teams competed and fought for the right to be claimed the top in the county.
It was North Pitt who won the team championship with 172 points. The host Vikings finished second with 147 points, while South Central finished third with 122 points. Ayden-Grifton (117 points), J.H. Rose (75 points) and Farmville Central (37 points) rounded out the pack.
“It’s an emotional time every time you do this,” Panthers coach Chris Young said. “Our team set forth two goals at the beginning of the season. Conference (championship) and Pitt County, those were our two goals this season. We faced so much adversity that I wasn’t sure how it’d work out, but our guys stepped up.
“There were probably a dozen matches that could have gone either way, and I’d say in 11 of those we prevailed. That’s the best part about wrestling; you face adversity and you try to prevail. Sports does that for you.”
The Panthers also accomplished their goal of winning the 2-A Eastern Plains conference, which they wrapped up by attaining a 9-0 conference record Friday night.
Leading those taking home individual gold was DHC’s Drake Daughtry. Now 40-5 on the year, Daughtry won the 126-pound weight class.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Daughtry said. “I broke my leg in the summer, so I was kind of unsure coming into this year, but through coaching and changing how I wrestle, I feel really good. After getting that 100th win, I’m just looking forward to conference and regionals and hopefully states.”
A-G’s Mason Ross walked away with two big accomplishments, being crowned champion in the 152-pound class and nailing down his own 100th win. Mason earned the milestone win early in the event, but he never lost focus on his way to the title.
“It’s crazy,” Ross said. “It doesn’t feel real. I’m the ninth person in A-G history to get 100, so it feels unreal.”
At 31-2 this season, Ross is showing why he is one to be feared come time for regional and state playoff matches.
NP’s breakout freshman dual-athlete Raheem Jones also took home gold in the 182-pound division.
“I’m feeling great,” Jones said. “I have to thank God. I also have to thank my coaches and parents for their help. I just work hard and that pushes me through everything I do.”
A-G’s Ray Darden is known best for his performances on the football field, but it was his hard work on the mats that earned him a first place finish at 195 pounds.
“I feel good. It felt great for all of this (hard work) to pay off,” Darden said. “I had to cut about six or seven pounds before I got here, so it was a big achievement to come in first today.”
Darden’s brother, Jeffery, also placed, taking second at 220 pounds.
“It feels good (to do this with him),” Ray Darden said. “I know he’s always right behind me, so I have to keep pushing forward, set the pathway for him. I realize he’s right on my coattails.”
Other individual winners included Adam Bullock, NP, 106 pounds; Ethan Lenyszyn, DHC, 113; Nolan Mills, DHC, 120; Phifer Ozimek, JHR, 132; Drew Sisk, JHR, 138; Dalton English, NP, 145; Shiheim Suggs, NP, 160; Cameron Jones, NP, 170; Jerell Belcher, SC, 220; and George Ayino, SC, 285.
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.