Pack takes fourth; will send six to state tournament

Published 4:03 am Sunday, February 15, 2009

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
WINTERVILLE — Senior Gabe Gardner and junior Justin “Weasel” Moore each captured East Region titles and four other Pam Pack grapplers punched tickets to next weekend’s NCHSAA Class 3A State Wrestling Championships in Winston-Salem, as Washington placed fourth in Saturday’s Class 3A East Region wrestling tournament at South Central High School.
Washington scored 133 points to finish fourth among 24 teams. Havelock (166.5) edged out South Central (143.5) and Curritck (142.5) for the the team title.
The fourth place finish at regionals is the best by a Pam Pack squad in almost 20 years, while the six state qualifiers are the most in coach Dan Riggs’ four-year tenure.
Gardner was the first of five Washington grapplers to take the mat in the finals. The 135-pound senior got the Pam Pack off on the right foot as he out-witted West Carteret’s Sam Tomlinson (39-12) for a couple of early takedowns, then held on in the third period for a 5-3 decision.
Gardner, who already owns the Pam Pack school record for wins in a season, went 4-0 at the regional tournament and is now 46-6 on the year. He’ll be making his third trip to the state tournament.
Moore picked up his second straight East Region championships as the 171-pounder put on a dynamic performance against Nash Central’s Donny Wacenske in the finals. Moore used his strength and quickness to ovtmatch Wacenske and take home the crown with an 8-0 major decision.
Moore improved to 43-1 and will make his third trip to the state tournament.
While Gardner and Moore took home gold, Darien Peele (152), Johnnie Smallwood (189) and Marquin Hill (285) settled for silver following tough losses in the finals.
Peele (40-12), who beat White Oak’s Terrance Zaleski 5-4 early in the year, fell behind Zaleski early in his finals’ match and could never recover as the White Oak grappler overpowered the Pam Pack senior en route to a 12-3 major decision.
However, the smile remained on Peele’s face following the match as he was thrilled to be making his first trip to the state tournament.
In the 189-pound final, Smallwood suffered a crushing defeat to South Central’s Matt Stoeckle, an opponent that Smallwood beat twice this season. Smallwood (36-6) held a 2-0 lead over Stoeckle late in the second period, when he shot for a takedown and missed. Stoeckle (45-10) capitalized on the miscue and put Smallwood on his back for a split second. The referee immediatley slapped the mat and Smallwood was forced to settle for silver.
At 285 pounds, Marquin Hill (31-6) faced off with arch-nemsis Charlie Millea (41-3) of Havelock. Hill and Millea, Class 3A’s No. 1 ranked haevyweight, battled to a 1-1 tie after three periods and were forced to go to overtime. In the extra period, Hill used his quickness to get underneath the Rams’ behemoth, but couldn’t finish the takedown. Seconds later, Millea pounced on Hill and scored a takedown to win 3-1.
It was the third time this season that Hill lost to Millea. All have been by two points or less.
The biggest surprise of the day was junior Michael Goldberg, who lost his opening match on Friday, but battled back to win four matches on Saturday to place fourth and advance to the state tourney. Goldberg had won just 11 matches coming into the tournament and was seeded 10th.
Pam Pack junior Daniel Garcia (112) and senior Josh Stone (140) each won a pair of matches on Saturday, but fell just short of qualifying for the state meet as they lost in the consolation semifinals.
Next weekend’s state tournament will kick off Friday morning at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem.