MILLERS CREEK - In a tournament dominated by three-time defending state champion West Wilkes, area teams had their shining moments Saturday at the Mountain Valley Conference meet.
East Wilkes captured three individual titles, while Starmount - two second- and third-place finishes - and Elkin - two bronze medals - held their own.
Zack Prevette, Cody Mathis and Zack Faircloth brought home crowns to help power the Cardinals to a fourth-place team finish.
Prevette (45-2) powered his way to the 132-pound final with two dominating pins in his first two matches. In the finals, the senior took on West Wilkes’ Justin St. Germain.
After a hard-fought first two periods, Prevette hit a reversal to start the third to go up 4-2. St. Germain escaped for a point, but the senior recorded the winning takedown for the title.
Mathis (52-4) bettered his teammate on the afternoon, recording back-to-back pins to punch his ticket into the 152-pound final.
The senior followed those wins up with a dominating pin of Wilkes Central’s Dylan Adams less than a minute into the first period to claim the crown.
Faircloth (47-7), like his teammates, pinned his way to the championship bout at 195.
In the finals, the senior controlled Forbush’s Dylan Edwards throughout for East’s third title. Faircloth opened with a takedown and a near fall in the first. He capped the win with an escape and takedown in the third.
Derek Woodie nearly made it a four-peat for the Cardinals, but was stunned in the final seconds of the match on a late takedown to fall 6-3 in heart-breaking fashion.
An “emotionally drained” Starmount squad put two wrestlers in the final, capturing two silver medals.
“It was a good overall effort,” Starmount head coach David Oliver said. “I think the kids that placed in the finals could have won. They gave good effort - the wrestling was there. But I think we felt a little emotionally drained after what’s happened over the last couple weeks.”
For the Rams, Benton Branch surprised the 160-pound bracket by reaching the final. Branch upset No. 1-seeded Luke Wagoner (North Wilkes) in the semifinals to punch his ticket.
In the championship bout against Wilkes Central’s Evan Adams, Branch hit a takedown to grab an early 2-0 lead. But a reversal and a escape gave Adams a 3-2 edge.
Adams completed the comeback, recording a pin with just under a minute left in the second period.
“Branch was a little unexpected as a junior. He beat the No. 1 seed in the semifinals, who pinned him earlier in the year. He was very competitive in the championship match, but got caught,” Oliver said.
Starmount senior Michael Wood looked to add a statement to his impressive senior campaign.
Wood, who came into the tournament with a 34-1 mark, recorded a tech fall and a pin to reach the 182-pound championship match Saturday.
In the finals, Wood took on Ashe County’s William Miller (32-5). Miller recorded four takedowns in the bout, including two in the second period, to bring home the individual title 8-4.
“Wood was as expected. Miller is a real good, technical wrestler and kept him on his feet. He didn’t really get to wrestle his kind of match,” Oliver said.
Marco Fuentes and Cody Leonard added third-place finishes for Starmount.
A young Elkin side dominated the consolation bracket, racking up two bronze medals and four fourth-place finishes.
Dylan Gentry rebounded from a semifinal loss to Starmount’s Wood with a comfortable 14-2 victory over East Wilkes’ Austin Bare in the consolation semis.
The junior captured the bronze with a 1-0 win over West Wilkes’ Joshua Kilby in the finals.
Freshmen Levi Collins made noise in the 113-pound bracket, pinning Forbush’s Laken Jowers to finish third in his first conference tournament.
Said Javier (120 pounds), Zane Millsaps (152), Thomas Bartley (160) and Tyler Stoltzfuz (195) added fourth-place finishes for the Elks.
“We put six in the consolation finals with two third-place finishers. We’re still pretty young,” coach Perry Lloyd said. “It’s all a building process. The kids worked hard today and all year.”
East Wilkes finished fourth in the final team standings with 88 points, while Elkin came in sixth with 64. Starmount finished eighth with 54.5 points.
Lloyd said the team will build on the performance for next year with a new crop of wrestlers from the middle school.
“We’ll build on this because we basically have everyone coming back next year and a group coming up from the middle school. Hopefully we can continue to cycle,” he explained. “Ultimately we want to be good enough to win a state championship. We won one in 2004, but it’s been a long time. We’d sure like win another on in the near future.”
Conference teams will now prepare for their respective West Regional, scheduled for February 23. Oliver said the Rams will have a “tough regional” but several wrestlers will be “right there to qualify.”
“Wood will have to compete against Miller and Parker Von Egidy from Piedmont. He’ll have to battle through them and a couple other guys to place top four to qualify for state,” he said. “He can do it, but he’ll have to work hard these next two weeks to get ready.
“Ian Fennell at 170 has a good opportunity. The regional is set up nicely for Garrett Stokes at 220 to slide in. Leonard and Fuentes have an opportunity to qualify,” Oliver continued. “They’re all going to be right there in that consolation semifinal match or the finals to qualify for state. It’s a very tough regional down there. So you’re going to have to win those tough one- and two-point matches to qualify.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.