Pack pair pick up conference titles

Published 1:05 am Sunday, February 1, 2009

By Staff
By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — Junior Justin “Weasel” Moore and senior Johnnie Smallwood each had some extra motivation heading into Saturday’s Coastal Conference Championship Tournament.
Moore, who won the 152-pound conference championship as a freshman, was upset by New Bern’s Jordan Best in the 160-pound finals of the 2008 Coastal Conference Championship Tournament.
Meanwhile, Smallwood had to miss the Coastal Conference Championships the past two seasons because of illness.
Saturday, the two made ammends, as they both won individual titles to help Washington (108.5 points) place third in the conference, behind champion New Bern (174 points) and runner-up Havelock (167 points). South Central was fourth with 101.5 points, followed by West Carteret (94.5), J.H. Rose (91.5), West Craven (47.5) and D.H. Conley (44.5).
Moore breezed through the 171-pound bracket with a 16-0 technical fall win over South Central’s James Joyner in the semifinals and then, scored the only pin of the finals as he flattened J.H. Rose’s Devonte Rasberry in four minutes and 33 seconds to win the title.
Moore is now 38-1 on the season.
In the 189-pound bracket, Smallwood pinned West Carteret’s Mason McGovock in the first period of their quarterfinals matchup, then picked up a 5-2 decision over South Central’s Matt Stoeckle in the semifinals. In the championship round, Smallwood put on a show as he walloped Havelock’s Thurman Green with a 12-4 major decision.
While Moore and Smallwood picked up first-place hardware, two other Pam Pack wrestlers suffered heart-wrenching defeats in the finals.
Senior Gabe Gardner, wrestling at 135 pounds, advanced to the finals by defeating West Craven’s Mitch Lewis and New Bern’s Sean Corcoran.
After scoring a takedown to grab an early 2-0 lead over West Carteret’s Sam Tomlinson in the title bout, Gardner gave up a reversal in the third period and had to go to overtime. With less than two seconds left in the extra session, Gardner attempted to go for a takedown, but made a crucial mistake, allowing Tomlinson to pounce on him for two points and the conference title.
Heavyweight Marquin Hill experienced similiar disappointment.
Wrestling the state’s No. 1 ranked Class 3A heavyweight, Charlie Millea of Havelock, Hill tied the match at 1-1 in the third period as Millea was called for stalling with Hill on the bottom.
Needing an escape, Hill popped up from the bottom and wiggled a leg free. The referee immediatley signaled for an escape to give Hill a 2-1 lead. But a split second later, Millea reeled Hill back in, and the referee was forced to make a controversial takedown call, putting Millea ahead 3-2 in the final 15 seconds, and giving the Rams’ star the conference title.
Riggs declined to go into specifics about the questionable call, but did express the disappointment he felt for his wrestler.
All told, eight of the Pam Pack’s nine wrestlers placed at Saturday’s meet.
Josh Stone (140) and Darien Peele (152) both bounced back from semifinal losses to claim third place finishes, while Aaron Quinones (145) and Michael Goldberg (160) both took fourth.
J.H. Rose junior Brandon Leitz (160) was named the Coastal Conference’s Wrestler of the Year after posting a 48-4 record this season, while Havelock’s Ed Cruz took home Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Rams to a 21-2 mark in dual matches.
The Pam Pack (24-8) will learn on Monday whether or not they’ve secured a wild card berth for the state duals. It’s been more than a decade since Washington reached the state dual tournament.