Orange Crushes UP's Title Hopes
Union Pines' wrestling program may very well win a dual team state championship, but it won't be this season, after the Vikings' state title hopes were dashed Thursday in a 36-30 loss to Orange in the Class 3A East Region semifinals held at Northern Nash High School.
"I feel for these guys," said Union Pines head coach Matt Ragsdale of his team members. "These guys have worked so hard. It just hurts."
Orange (32-3) advanced to face Havelock, a 36-33 winner over Northern Nash in the semifinals, in the regional final and won 31-30. The Panthers will face West champion J.M. Robinson in the 3A dual team state championship match.
Union Pines (30-3), which entered the match ranked No. 1 among 3A teams, trailed the third-ranked Panthers 26-18 before Mike Brennen lost a 4-2 decision in overtime to Justin Barbee at 160 pounds, extending the Orange lead to 29-18.
Matt Lester was beaten in a 13-2 major decision by Nick Shriner at 171 pounds, and with Union Pines needing a win from Graham Haulsee at 189 pounds, the senior lost an excruciating 3-2 decision to Chris Intehor, which extended the Orange lead to an insurmountable 36-18.
Haulsee led 2-1 in the third period, but a takedown by Intehor with less than a minute remaining proved to be the deciding factor. The Panthers forfeited the final two matches.
"We were the No. 1-ranked team, and Havelock was two and Orange was three, but I told everybody that we're meeting programs that have won multiple state championships," said Ragsdale. "They have been in that situation 10 times, and we've been in it, that was our first."
The loss to Orange was a major setback for Ragsdale and the Vikings, who stated repeatedly throughout the season that their goal was to win the team state championship. But a setback is all it was, not the end of the road for a program on the rise.
"I believe that to attain high goals, you have to set goals, you have to get close to them, and I think you've got to come back and go again and never quit, and that's what we've got to do," said Ragsdale. "They're a great group of boys, and they will respond."
After losing a major decision at 103 pounds to open the match, Union Pines got back-to-back wins from Seth Kosem, who pinned Jordan Baker in 5:30 at 112 pounds, and Brandon Berry, who won a 1-0 decision over Luke Mincey at 119 pounds, to take an early 9-4 lead.
Orange answered with a pair of wins, a major decision and a pin, to go ahead 14-9. But Union Pines had an answer of its own.
Randy Stevens pinned James Farthing in 5:38 at 135 pounds to regain the lead for the Vikings at 15-14, and Chris Rubinosky followed that up by winning a 5-0 decision from Troy Jones at 140 pounds to extend the lead to 18-14.
That's when momentum swung Orange's way. Tyrone Mason pinned Adrian Soto-Perez in 5:03 at 145 pounds to start a string of five straight Panther wins. The run was broken only when Orange forfeited to Kaleb Rierson at 215 pounds with the outcome already decided.
After the match, the Viking wrestlers were inconsolable.
"It was tough on the coaching staff to watch these boys after the match," said Ragsdale. "They have a lot of passion, and I told them, that passion will help them do great things in life."
With their duals season over, the Vikings now turn their attention to Saturday's individual regionals, which will be contested at Morehead High School.
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