Candler – North Henderson Knights regained their wrestling throne as dual meet champions of the Western Mountain Athletic Conference by coming from behind to win 37-30 at defending champion Enka last week.
North Knights have both WMAC titles. They won the regular season by defeating Enka in a monumental comeback on June 2, in a battle of WMAC-unbeaten Goliaths. NHHS finished 8-0 in the league, and 13-1 overall, with its sole loss to reigning 4A state champ, Hough.
The conference title is the top rung this time, with regional and state dual team tourneys scrapped. The regular season was abbreviated, and delayed from fall due to the pandemic. Individual competition remains, with state titles at stake.
The Knights won the conference tournament with 206 points, May 2 in Enka’s “The Hangar.” Enka was second, at 173.5. NHHS won six weight classes, and Enka took five.
Robert Cleto Salgado won the decisive final match on June 2 — in the 132-pound class. NHHS had a slim 33-30 lead. Whichever side won this match would take the meet, and the WMAC title.
One might call Salgado the Man-bunned Man-handler. He shut out Damien Maxwell 12-0, for a major decision.
Salgado was the clear aggressor. He led 5-0 after the first of three rounds, then 10-0 after two.
“We needed to get the win” in the meet for the title, Salgado said. He was thus eager to “go out and get it,” and “take charge” and compile points with many “turns.”
NHHS head coach Heang Uy said Salgado “stepped up” in pressure time, and has been “strong” recently. Salgado’s triumph finalized the score at 37-30.
NHHS dominated the heaviest then lightest weight divisions. “We’re strongest at the top and bottom” of weight classes, Uy noted.
The Knight surge came after Enka led 24-0 then 27-6, by winning six of the first seven matches — which started in middleweights.
Big Wins for Big Boys
Freshman Reese Meadows and senior Triston Norris won back-to-back matches with pins, to ignite the Knight rally from a 27-6 deficit. Both earlier won league tourney titles. Lankier Meadows downed chunky Josh Davis in the 220-pound limit class last week. Davis at 215 outweighed Meadows by 11 pounds and used his bulk to lean into him.
But Meadows held his own in power exchanges, then out-maneuvered Davis. Knight assistant coach Wayne Nock said Meadows, among others, “limited danger” to avoid pins.
Meadows led 5-2 after two rounds, then 7-4 in the third before securing the pin. Meadows also beat Davis in the WMAC tourney, in the semifinals.
“Never give up!” is Meadow’s mantra and that of the team, he said. His win doubled Knight team points, denting Enka’s lead at 27-12.
Norris then pinned burly Daniel Gath on his belly, merely 1:20 into their match. Norris grabbed the much heavier Gath’s right leg, and hauled him down for a two-point takedown and to set up the pin. Gath outweighed Norris by over 60 pounds, at 280-218.5.
Norris has earned All-American honors at recent national meets. He was third among heavyweights in the Coaches Association meet in Virginia in late April. He edged a Californian 2-1 for bronze. Norris was fourth in the 220-pound class, in the national Super 32 meet in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Norris was third in the state in individual competition last season, and next is gunning for the 2020-21 crown.
Norris acts as a Knight assistant coach, in training and motivation. The App State-bound brute yells out directions from the sidelines. He mentors Meadows and instructed him at the WMAC tourney from the head coach’s chair in Uy’s place. The two big Knight wrestlers practice against each other.
Meadows is “coming along” quite well, Norris said. Meadows said Norris got him to steady his stance for better balance, and to initiate more “moves from the top.”
Norris’ victory tightened the score 27-18. The rotation next went to lightest weights, then up a heavier class at a time. Lady Knight Glennin Hansen got a forfeit at 106.
North swiped the lead at 30-27, as Lazaro Vasquea pinned Jesse Smith in the 113-pound bout. Henry Portela pulled out a dynamic 7-5 decision at 120, by escaping from Isaiah Morrison for a two-point reversal with 24 seconds to go. NHHS led 33-27.
Enka got closer at 33-30, as Bodhi McCormack won 6-3 over WMAC tourney champ, Peyton Fincher, at 126. McCormack landed on his head early but prevailed.
Salgado then salted away the Knight’s title.
Jets’ Early Lead
As Enka head coach Mark Harris noted, the Jets have veteran wrestlers in middle to heavier weights. He is proud of how some Jets got payback for losses to Knights in the WMAC tourney, often coming from behind.
The meet opened with Zion DeVore edging Chase Smith 5-4, at 138 pounds.
Next was a marquee rematch between stars Eli Foster of Enka and Trevon Hill, at 145 pounds. Hill, the swift football running back, led Enka 3-1 in the WMAC tourney finals. But less-fatigued Foster won 5-3, with a four-point flurry in the final half-minute.
In the dual meet, Hill again led 3-1. But Foster tied it with a takedown, then took a 5-3 lead with a reversal as he got out of trouble. Foster won 7-3.
Greyson Harris, the coach’s son, pinned Peyton Cooper in 1:42 at 152. Enka led 24-0.
The Knights got on the board, as Ulises Vega de la Mora pinned Riley Pugh at 160 pounds.
But Enka won the next three bouts, to lead 27-6. Tony Torres pinned Christian Jovel in 1:47, at 170. At 182, Luke Artz led Alex Mendoza 15-0 when securing a technical “fall” (pin). Colby Maxwell beat Felix Montiel 14-4 at 195. Maxwell grabbed a leg and dragging Montiel across the mat.
Enthusiasm often matched the intense drama. Mostly subdued, head coaches Harris and Yu motioned and sounded out directions.
The most animated rooters were the two Knight assistants — agile Wayne Nock, and big Joshua Stewart. Nock, a social studies teacher, was adept in wrestling and drama when an NHHS student. Last week, he hopped along sidelines and motioned on-looking Knights to yell encouragement to their teammate wrestling. They obliged. Nock and Uy jumped about after the team’s triumph.