Pitt County high schools will send 58 wrestlers to the NCHSAA regional tournaments, which begin today and conclude Saturday night.
South Central’s squad will compete in the 4-A East Regional at Laney High School in Wilmington.
The Falcons are sending 12 to their regional and will be led by heavyweight George Ayino (50-4 record, conference champion), Malik Jenkins (39-9 at 160 pounds, conference champion), Kody Buck (37-15 at 145), Shamar Cogdell (34-16 at 113), Omica Daniels (35-12 at 152), William Cannaday (33-15 at 132) and Travon Brown (9-2 at 126).
Others who will represent South Central include Carrington Pierce (26-24 at 106), Faris Dixon (18-28 at 170), Austin Sullivan (21-28 at 195), Matthew Riggs (8-11 at 120) and Cody Smull (16-33 at 138).
D.H. Conley will send all 14 members of its team to the 3-A East Regional at Cleveland High School in Johnston County.
The Vikings scheduled to compete are Hunter Bryant (29-13 at 106), Ethan Lenyszyn (37-3 at 113, conference champion), Sammy Obeid (22-14 at 126), Michael Digsby (18-17 at 132), Michael McNeill (12-8 at 132), Josh Atkinson (15-15 at 138), Carson Hathaway (33-17 at 145), Walker Kassnove (33-17 at 152), Jordan Anderson (16-10 at 160), Troy Weaver (41-7 at 170, conference champion), Weston Cole (4-10 at 182), Gabriel Anderson (at 195), Kiran Davila (31-13 at 220) and Rashid O’Neal (17-10 at 285).
“The two that have the most promise to make the state tournament are Ethan and Troy,” Vikings head coach Michael Taylor said.
J.H. Rose will also participate in the 3-A East Regional. The Rampants’ qualifiers are Alex Barajas, who went 28-6 at 106 pounds during the regular season; Damarius Langley (18-13 at 113), Drew Sisk (26-4 at 138) and James Thomas (16-9 at 152).
North Pitt, Greene Central and Ayden-Grifton will compete in the 2-A East Regional, to be held at Croatan High School in Newport.
The Panthers qualified 11 for the regional. They are Trent Hoffner (27-22 at 106, conference champion), Adam Bullock (26-20 at 120, conference champion), Chase Miller (15-18 at 126), Jayvion Perry (20-23 at 132), Drew Mizell (43-11 at 138, conference champion), Izayah Horne (22-24 at 145, conference champion), Joshua Gomez (6-22 at 152), Cameron Jones (41-5 at 160, conference champion), Beanie Suggs (16-3 at 182), Khalil Everett (24-6 at 195, conference champion) and Alex Esponsa-Johnson (43-6 at 220, conference champion).
Panthers head coach Chris Young said five wrestlers have a shot at qualifying for states: Mizell (injured last season, but could go if he wrestles well, Young said), Jones and Suggs (both fell one match away from states last year), and Everett and Esponsa-Johnson, both state qualifiers last year.
Greene Central will take eight wrestlers to the 2-A regional: Carson Williams at 113, Coryantae Dawson at 120, Joe Henderson at 126, Cody Hartke at 132, Elijah Ortiz at 145, Bradley Parham at 170, Atlante Harris at 182 and Andres Garcia at 220.
Ayden-Grifton will have nine wrestlers in the 2-A regional.
They include Landon Stocks (33-4 at 113, conference champion), Hunter Dickens (21-16 at 138), Michael Dickens (29-3 at 145, conference champion), Jayce McClung (28-12 at 160), Allesio Rogers (6-25 at 170), Jose Ticante (1-19 at 182), J.C. Darden (23-1 at 195, conference champion), Ben Thompson (15-13 at 220) and Alphonso Boyd (18-5 at 285).
Chargers coach Jeff Wooten believes several of his grapplers have a shot at making states, among them Stocks, Michael Dickens (state qualifier last season), Darden and Boyd.
The top four placers in each weight class advance to the state tournament Feb. 18-20 in Greensboro.
Regional seeding criteria is based on winning percentage and a 15-match minimum, and state placement/qualification from the 2019 tournament. Tiebreaking criteria, in order, are head-to-head, then total number of matches, followed by a coin flip.
Weigh-ins for the 4-A East Regional today are at 3:30 p.m. with wrestling to follow at 5 p.m. Saturday weigh-ins start at 7 a.m. with matches starting at 8:30 a.m.
Weigh-ins today for the 2-A East Regional start at 3:30 p.m. followed by wrestling at 5 p.m. Saturday weigh-ins begin at 8 a.m. with wrestling slated to begin at 9 a.m.
The 3-A East Regional weigh-ins today begin at 4:30 p.m. with matches scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Saturday weigh-ins start at 8 a.m. with wrestling commencing at 9:15 a.m.
D.H. Conley 57, South Central 32
Having Jenna Wooten back in the lineup ignited the D.H. Conley girls basketball team on senior night, and the Vikings pulled away in the second half to win, 57-32 over South Central to end the regular season undefeated (23-0) for the first time in school history.
“They hit a gear I haven’t seen them hit all season,” coach Shawn Moore said. “We’re happy to achieve this accomplishment, but now we’re 0-0 and onto the postseason.”
After an offensive struggle to start, Wooten began her return to action with a 3-pointer that gave her 1,000 career points and there was a game stoppage to honor her accomplishment.
It was part of an early a 9-0 run. Wooten hit another 3 in that run and Conley would lead 9-6 going into the second.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” Wooten said about the milestone. “The whole team kept it secret from me, but I knew I was getting close to it. It felt really great to have that happen and get the win.”
Silver had 21 points to lead all scorers for the Vikings and a Wooten finished with 20.
The Vikings and Falcons now look ahead to the Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A conference tournament next week. Conley will have a first-round bye and both teams matchups are to be determined.
D.H. Conley 51, South Central 41
What was going to be an outright conference regular season title is now going to be shared.
After losing to J.H. Rose, South Central ran into a hungry Conley squad on senior night. The Vikings knocked off the Falcons, and with this result and Rose’s win over Southern Wayne on Thursday, the Rampants and Falcons will share the conference regular season title. However, since the Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A is a split conference, both teams will be a top seed in their respective state playoff brackets.
“I’m ecstatic for our senior class,” Vikings head coach Rob Maloney said. “We hadn’t done a great job of finishing games, but we did it tonight. We caught them on a night where they were banged up, but they have a great program and I have nothing but respect for coach (Chris) Cherry.”
“We believed in each other,” Conley’s Kent Gilbert said. “We’ve struggled over our last few games, but we were able to come together and get it done.”
Conley closed the game out with free throws and the crowd stormed the court in jubilation. For the seven Vikings seniors, their final regular season home game was one they won’t forget.
Deontay Joseph had 15 to pace the Vikings while Lashawn Owens finished with 14. Travon Ward had 13 to lead the Falcons.
— Laieke Abebe