Washington wins Eli Saleeby Lee Memorial Tournament

Published 6:13 pm Saturday, January 17, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS TEST OF STRENGTH: Sophomore Jacob Smith wrestled up a weight class against Northeastern in the Pam Pack’s fourth dual team match of the day.

TEST OF STRENGTH: Sophomore Jacob Smith wrestled up a weight class against Northeastern in the Pam Pack’s fourth dual team match of the day.

The Washington wrestling team entered the season with one of the youngest rosters in the area and a new head coach looking to build upon the foundation left by his predecessor, Dan Riggs. Questions of whether or not the team could mirror the individual success of standout graduates like Devon Van Cura and Thomas Remick arose rather quickly. But so far, just halfway through the 2014-2015 wrestling campaign, those questions have been answered, as team determination has quickly become more important than individual success.

The Pam Pack improved to an overall record of 20-1 on Saturday after taking first place at the 10th annual Eli Saleeby Lee Memorial Tournament held at Washington High School. The host team defeated Greene Cenral, Edenton Holmes, North Lenoir, Northeastern and Beddingfield before hoisting the championship trophy.

“It’s huge,” said head coach Chris Penhollow. “With three starters not here for various reasons, I told the team certain guys would need to step up. We showed up today and wrestled our tail off. It was just a complete win for the team. It’s above and beyond what I thought coming into the season.”

The Pam Pack took to the mat without three key pieces due to injuries — sophomore Austin Coward (126), freshman Andrew Ferguson (170) and senior Kyle Krajewski, who posted a 11-1 record since joining the team after football season. Despite a few downgrades in key places, the team still managed to smoke all five visiting squads by wide margins.

“I thought coming in if we wrestled the way we’ve been wrestling and didn’t have a lull, we’d have a shot to go 5-0 today,” Penhollow said. “We had a tough team right off the bat, so I told them we needed to be ready to go as soon as we rolled in. They didn’t take anyone lightly and were aggressive with everyone we wrestled.”

In the closest match of the day, Washington opened the tournament with a 50-27 win over Edenton Holmes. The Pam Pack jumped out to a quick lead after Cameron Davenport and Jordan Grazier both pinned their opponents. Chris Coogan followed with a pin over Edenton’s Jarvis Riddick in the first period, but the Aces strung together three-straight wins over Washington middleweights. Jacob Smith demonstratively ended the Edenton run with a 46-second pin of Nata Rankins and Washington coasted from there, Marcus Sneed, Simeon Pope and D.K. Credle all picking up wins.

In the next match, Washington easily took care of an understaffed Greene Central team, 73-3. Kenny Castaneda, who dropped from 170 to 160 for the match, Grazier, Coogan, Stroud, Romero, Neill Jennings and Credle all earned victories, while Greene Central’s Miles Williams was the only Ram to win, a 4-3 decision over Raekwon Ross.

After a short break, Washington faced North Lenoir, a matchup that Penhollow anticipated would be one of the toughest on the day. The Pam Pack faced the Hawks in the season opener in a match that was decided by just one point. And on Saturday, North Lenoir would be denied a shot at revenge, as Washington came through with a 56-22 victory. Ross responded nicely after a poor start with a first-period pin over Shaun Johnson. Despite a few early victories from the Hawks, Stroud, Lane Jackson, Smith, Pope, Credle, Davenport and Grazier all won their respective matches.

Washington carried its momentum into the fourth match against Northeastern and came through with a 60-21 victory. Pins by Coogan, Credle, Davenport and Castaneda proved to be the difference, but Northeastern’s Javiaughn Basnight came through with a last second, upset win over Smith, who was wrestling up a weight class at 113.

Washington closed the tournament with a decisive 66-18 win over conference foe Beddingfield. Undersized and understaffed, the Bruins were forced to forfeit eight weight classes, while Credle, Davenport and Coogan all pinned their respective opponents. For Beddingfield, Nolan Jones and Isaiah Bookman proved to be the only bright sport on the day, both picking up pins.

Washington returns to action on Wednesday when the Pam Pack travels to Wilson to take on Fike, before heading to Farmville Central on Friday to square off against Penhollow’s former team.