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A-G's Darden wins state title

021619-Darden Champion
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Ayden-Grifton's Ray Darden has his hand raised after winning the 2-A 195-pound state championship Saturday night.

021719-Darden State finals

By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, February 16, 2019

GREENSBORO — After two days of intense competition leading up to Saturday night, Ayden-Grifton senior wrestler Ray Darden brought home the state championship crown at 195 pounds during 2-A action at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Darden defeated Will Frady of Smoky Mountain via a 3-2 decision to claim the title. He is the first member of the Chargers’ program to win a state title since Diego Martinez in 2012.

“It feels really good to come out on top,” Darden said. “After cutting weight all season, the tournaments, it all paid off in the end. State champ, it feels pretty good.”

Darden quickly took a slim lead to start the match, but neither wrestler could find a way to gain critical points on the other, leading to a scramble in the final round for Darden to shut the door and earn the title. With just 20 seconds remaining, Frady looked to score by pulling a reversal on Darden, but instead he was locked down with little mobility as time expired.

A-G coach Jeff Wooten gave Darden a simple plan heading into the match, leaving Darden’s experience to help him overcome adversity.

“Coach told me in the beginning of the match to just get the first takedown and just go from there,” Darden said. 

Teammates and supporters who made the trip to the western part of the state cheered loudly for Darden as he walked over to celebrate with them.

“I’m not alone,” he said. “I have my coach and my guys who help me and train me to be here. It’s an individual sport, but my guys coach me up to be this good.”

Darden finished his senior season with a record of 32-1.

He may have brought home the title, but he wasn’t the only A-G wrestler to see success. Teammate Landon Scott finished fifth at 106 pounds. Scott defeated Eddie Leon of South Lenoir by fall in 54 seconds to take fifth.

Also competing in the 2-A category was North Pitt, which saw two wrestlers finish sixth or better. Raheem Jones (185) took fifth after Matteo Fulghieri of Carrboro forfeited, and Khalil Everett (220) finished sixth.

In 4-A competition, South Central’s Jerrell Belcher (220) finished third after defeating John Jimenez of Mooresville by decision, 8-3. Belcher finished his final season with the Falcons with a 53-2 record. SC’s George Ayino (285) was sixth.  

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.


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