Nine county wrestlers headed to state tournament

Published 8:01 am Monday, February 13, 2023

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For the first time since wrestling became a sport in Beaufort County, all three high schools will send a representative to the state tournament.

Northside senior Jayvion O’Neal won the 1A East Regional championship in the 182 lb. class and is the first Panther to qualify for the state tournament in the programs’ second year.

O’Neal advanced with two pins and two decisions on points over the weekend in Asheboro.

“I am very proud of Jayvion for all the hard work he’s put in,” coach Daniel Garcia said. “His friends talked him into trying out and he wanted to quit after the second practice because it was too hard, but I told him to give it two weeks. Now he is three matches away from being a state champion. His willingness to trust the process and continued acceptance of what we teach is why he’s headed to Greensboro.”

The Panthers finished eighth out of 24 teams at the event.

Southside heavyweight Elyjaih Baldwin is the second Seahawk to make the state tournament after a third-place finish Saturday.

Baldwin came in undefeated, but lost in the semi-finals to the eventual region champion. He bounced back with a win in the third-place match.

“After he lost for the first time, his next match lasted about a minute,” Seahawks coach Stanley Dixon said. “I’m super-proud of him for managing his weight this season. He’s in much better shape and has improved a lot with his technique.”

Washington qualified seven for the 2A tournament and finished second as a team to Southwest Onslow in the regional held at Ayden-Grifton.

Juniors Christian Price (106) and Bryant Smith (152) brought home regional championships, while classmate Braxton Woolard finished second in the 120 lb. class.

Freshmen David B. Meza (132) and Gabe Foreman (138), along with junior TraQuan Haywood (160) finished third, while freshman Tate Tucker was fourth at 126. The top four in each class advanced to the state tournament.

“I thought Tate’s bracket was the toughest and he did a great job battling back through the consolation bracket,” coach Chris Penhollow said. “there were three former regional champions in that group and he competed very well. It was a solid effort from everybody and we’ll see what happens next.”

The 2A tournament will have 16 wrestlers from the four regions competing the double-elimination event in each weight class starting Thursday night in Greensboro.

The 1A tournament has eight wrestlers from the East and West regionals in each class starting Friday.

“Jayvion making it to state proves that our formula for developing the correct form and technique is working,” Northside’s Garcia said. “We were dead last at the regional last year, so finishing eighth and qualifying somebody for state is a monumental moment for our program.”