Patriots Finish Fourth in State Wrestling
Pinecrest stood near the top of the mountain with four state place winners and a fourth-place team finish in the North Carolina High School Athletics Association State Wrestling Tournament held Friday and Saturday in Winston-Salem.
Once again it was the Patriot lightweights who captured the big prizes as Sam Ransdell (103 pounds) and Kevin Brown (112) blazed a trail to the finals where both claimed runner-up spots.
Glen Holmes (189) finished third in one of the tougher weight classes in the tournament, while Brad McKeever (152) achieved a personal goal with a fifth-place finish.
The four Patriot state qualifiers showed they could play with the big boys, finishing a close fourth in the team standings, behind three of the state's top programs, Cary, Riverside and Mount Tabor, in the best state tournament performance on record for a Pinecrest team.
Ransdell walked through the 103-pound bracket to the championship bout, defeating Michael Townsend of Watauga 7-4 and Devin Solow of Chapel Hill 9-2 in the preliminary rounds.
New Bern's Sean Corcoran fell on a 13-0 major decision to cap the run to the championship, but Ransdell came up short in a 9-0 loss to Cary's pint-sized powerhouse, Joey Farnsworth.
The contest drew special notice not so much for the matchup between the state's first- and second-ranked wrestlers, but as the end of a 10-year circle. Ransdell and Farnsworth met 10 years ago in youth competition, Ransdell as a Sandhills Sandcat, and Farnsworth wearing the Pinning Pythons colors. Farnsworth's first opponent was Ransdell. Both boys have watched each other compete and remained friends through the years, and now, in the final bout of Farnsworth's high school career, the two were on the mat for one last time.
Friendship aside, Farnsworth, nationally ranked, unbeaten and unscored on in 63 appearances on the mat got the better of Ransdell in their final meeting.
Ransdell finishes the season at 47-8. Look for him to move up a weight class or two when he returns for his senior season.
Brown has flown under the radar at times this season, but showed that he could dance in this year's big show.
After knocking off Watauga's Cody McGuire in an 8-3 decision, Brown got the crowd's attention in Friday evening's quarterfinals when he pinned Riverside's Sheldon Wilder in a three-minute thriller.
Wilder came into the tournament with an 82-2 record and ranked second in NCMat's Super 32, but finished this match counting lights on the ceiling.
Brown stopped East Burke's Austin Annas in a 9-2 decision in the semifinals to collect his ticket to the championship bout and a matchup with top seeded defending state champion Corey Mock of Chapel Hill.
Brown and Mock had battled earlier in the season, with Mock finishing on top in a close contest at the Tiger Classic Tournament where Brown took the Chapel Hill sophomore to his back but did not get the count.
Mock grabbed the first takedown in the finals match and was able to squeeze three back points before Brown escaped to finish the first-round standing. After a deadlocked middle period, Mock chose a top start going into round three, leaving Brown an opportunity to score.
Brown's efforts to escape and score were thwarted and the Patriot junior settled for the second step on the podium.
Brown's second-place performance and a 49-7 season will make him an early contender for a top spot in next year's standings.
Pinecrest's workhorse 189-pounder Glen Holmes was in the thick of what many considered the toughest weight class in the state.
In the early going, Holmes had no trouble handling Athens Drive's Nathan Scott, winning by fall after four minutes. Holmes then hit the mat for one of the most anticipated matches of the season, when he stepped out against Mount Tabor's defending state champ Anthony Clinton.
A hard-fought 7-3 decision sent Holmes to the consolation rounds and Clinton to the finals where he would repeat as state champion.
Holmes battled back through four matches in the consolations to finish in third place, pinning a path through Greenville Rose's Montrell Miles and Riverside's Cedric Carter, and bumping Leesville Road's John Schmittle to the side in a 12-1 major decision.
Holmes held East Mecklenburg's Denison Paiva scoreless through two periods in the consolation finals to secure the three spot.
Holmes, a three-time state qualifier and a senior, wraps up his prep career with two third-place finishes, three conference championships and 51-3 season record.
Before the season started, McKeever wrote the number "5" on his bathroom mirror. That was his goal, to finish fifth or better in the state. McKeever had fallen short last season in his bid to qualify for states, and he was determined to not only erase that mark, but to finish in this year's top-five.
His hard work paid off Saturday when he knocked off Scotland County's Evan Baker in a 8-6 decision to earn fifth-place honors.
The Pinecrest junior started strong, upsetting 45-3 Jack Wilson of R.J. Reynolds in a 3-1 struggle to advance to the championship quarter finals. A detour popped up in the quarterfinals when Cary's 58-1 returning state champion Thomas Ferguson rerouted McKeever into the consolations after a second-period fall.
But McKeever persevered, toppling Riverside wrestler B.J. Murray in a lopsided 9-2 decision to move ahead in the bracket. A forfeit by Weddington's Josh Watkins in the third consolation round sent McKeever to the consolation semifinals where he faced a familiar foe in Richmond's James McNeill.
McNeill edged McKeever 4-2 in overtime to advance to the consolation finals and matched McKeever against Baker in the bout for fifth place. McKeever completes the season at 40-14 and has already put a new number on the mirror.
Pinecrest can look forward to good things next season with three state placers returning, a promising sophomore class with a season's experience under their belts and some hopeful freshman prospects.
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