Pack opens with a sweep
Published 3:38 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023
Washington High School’s wrestling season is off to a strong start after the Pam Pack swept their season opening quad match before a raucous home crowd at Dave Smith Gym Wednesday night.
WHS came from behind to knock off the defending 2A East champion Bunn Wildcats, 45-30, easily dispatched West Carteret 52-22, then needed a pin from returning state qualifier Bryant Smith in the final match to defeat 4A power D.H. Conley, 40-37.
“We opened with this same set of opponents last year and went 0-3, so it’s a great confidence boost for our guys,” coach Chris Penhollow said. “It validates all the hard work they put in over the summer and fall and everyone wrestled very well against very competitive opponents.”
The Pack didn’t lose any seniors off last year’s squad that unexpectedly lost to conference foe West Craven in the second round of the team playoffs last spring,
In fact, Penhollow had to move practice from the normal room at WHS to Eastern Elementary because he has an all-time high 42 wrestlers in his program this season.
“We have some outstanding freshmen who are ready to contribute and return everybody from last year, so it’s a great spot to be in,” Penhollow said. “We literally out-grew our space at school and moved both our practice mats to Eastern Elementary. We have plenty of room to get everyone on the mat and have had some very competitive practices. There are only 14 starting spots and they all want to get out there.”
Senior defending regional champion Christian Price started the Pack’s comeback over Bunn with a pin in the 126 lb. class. That started a string of pins by state qualifiers Braxton Woolard (132), David B. Meza (138), Tate Tucker (144) and Gabe Foreman (150) to end the match and start the celebration.
“We have come close to beating them several times recently, so this was big for our guys,” Penhollow set. “We strung together some solid matches to pull it out at the end.”
After the decisive win over West Carteret, the script was much the same as the Pack fell behind early to D.H. Conley.
Meza started the rally with a pin, Tucker took a 14-3 major decision, Forman and Evan Makepeace (157) followed with pins to tie the match, then Smith ended it with another pin.
“Based on who the other teams had returning, I figured Conley would be the toughest match,” Penhollow said. “We had the crowd behind us and our guys were fired up, so it was a fun way to end the night and start the season. The loss to West Craven in the playoffs taught us that we can’t get complacent and expect teams to roll over for us. The older guys have mentioned it quite a bit during our pre-season practices and it carried over tonight. We have a chance to be pretty good if we can keep bringing the focus and effort we had tonight.”
Smith, Tucker and freshman Bryce Perry went 3-0 for Pack, while returning state qualifier TraQuan Haywood, Trenton Baldree, freshman Sam Boltes, Price, Meza and Forman went 2-1.