Pack primed for state

Published 7:35 am Thursday, February 21, 2008

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
Washington’s quartet of state qualifiers hit the mats at South Central High School on Tuesday in a final tune-up for this weekend’s N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A state wrestling championships.
Justin “Weasel” Moore and Johnnie Smallwood will be making their second straight trips to the state tournament, which will be held Friday and Saturday at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. They’ll be joined by first-time qualifiers Bryant Gardner and Martelles Jones.
Riggs said wrestling against Pitt County’s state qualifiers, including grapplers from South Central and North Pitt, will benefit his wrestlers come tournament time.
While Riggs said he took a quick glance at his wrestlers’ first-round opponents, he doesn’t pay much attention to the brackets.
Moore qualified to the state tournament after winning a regional championship in the 160-pound weight class last weekend. The sophomore (36-5) went 2-2 at last year’s state meet.
Moore, who is quickly approaching Gerald Lawrence’s school-record of 139 wins, will open this year’s state tournament against Concord senior Michael Poppiti (39-6).The winner will face the survivor between West Rowan senior Nicholas Mcgorda (31-1) and Webb senior Eric Williams (39-7) in the second round.
Gardner, a senior, took third at 145 pounds in last weekend’s regional meet. Gardner (32-13) will face Ragsdale junior Blair Fewell (47-9) in the first round of the state meet. The winner will take on the survivor between North Gaston senior Jimmy Moody (23-7) and Rockingham County junior Bradley Merriman (32-12) in the second round.
Gardner is hoping to go out with a bang.
Jones (23-21) will making his first trip to state after placing fourth at regionals in the 171-pound class.
Jones will battle Southwest Guilford senior Ben Lord (40-2) in the first round at state. The winner will face the survivor between Southern Alamance junior Jason Friddle (29-4) and East Rowan sophomore Thomas Lowe (36-5) in the second round.
Smallwood (25-13) qualified for the state meet for the second time after placing fourth at regionals. He went 0-2 in last year’s state meet.
Smallwood will take on Glenn senior Nick Davila (35-10) in the first round. The winner will battle the survivor between St. Stephens junior Steven Rink (43-8) and Northeast Guilford senior Daniel Patrick (31-7) in the second round.
Smallwood, a junior, has been battling a back injury he suffered during the regional meet.
Action will get started at 9 a.m. with first-round matches. The championship quarterfinals will start at 6 p.m.
Wrestling will resume at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The finals are slated to begin at 6 p.m.
Riggs is excited about bringing his four wrestlers to the meet.