WENDELL — Garner started quickly and took advantage of superior numbers to roll to a 51-25 wrestling victory over East Wake on Wednesday in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference dual opener for both teams.
The Trojans (2-1 overall), who are strong in the lighter weight classes, bolted to a 33-7 lead in the match, which started at the lightest weight class (106 pounds) – the starting order set by a pre-match draw.
Down 4-0 after East Wake’s Khadeem Dublin scored a 16-3 decision at 106, the Trojans reeled off wins at the next four weight classes – three by pins – to go up 21-4.
After East Wake’s Tyler Barabasz won a decision at 138, the Warriors forfeited at 145 and 152 and Garner was up 33-7.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Garner coach Ryan Tingle, in his first year as head coach after serving in an interim capacity last season. “My seniors have stepped up and are doing very well. We’re still very young in my upper weights and middle weights. But I’ve got 40 guys now.
“My goals from last year were met. I wanted to build my juniors and get them ready. I wanted to recruit. I haven’t given up a single forfeit and I have enough guys where I won’t give up any forfeits all year long.”
Numbers – or the lack of them – were a huge factor for East Wake (0-1), which forfeited three weight classes.
“Giving up 18 points is a killer,” East Wake coach Brian Staples said. “We’re short on numbers, and one kid didn’t make weight. But we are really short on numbers. That is our biggest issue right now, is not getting enough kids out.
“I think it is a function of me not working in the school and neither does my assistant. We count on the kids to recruit, but it’s hard to get them out.”
Mason Crawford started Garner’s early run at 113 pounds with a pin in the second period and senior Aschalew Teka followed with a pin at 120, getting the six-point victory with seven seconds left in a tight match. Up just 3-2, Teka followed Tingle’s philosophy of staying aggressive and picked up the pin – his sixth of the young season.
Teka has a 6-1 record, his only loss in the final of a tournament last weekend.
“As seniors we have to step up and lead the team,” Teka said. “This is coach’s first year as head coach. We want to take this team somewhere for him. He comes to practice every day and motivates us to work hard. He pushes us to be the best we can be.
“He is the reason we work hard every day.”
Teka, a native of Ethiopia, moved to this country six years ago. He said wrestling has come naturally for him.
“Wrestling just came to me, like an instinct,” Teka said. “I used to wrestle back home in Ethiopia. I work on my strength and speed and somewhat on technique. I tried to put all those together.”
Senior James Box followed with a decision for the Trojans at 126 and fellow senior Justin Scales got a pin in just 29 seconds for Garner at 132.
“Every time I get the chance to wrestle, it’s an honor,” Scales said. “You have got to wrestle like it’s your last match.”
Garner’s Connor Butler scored a second-period pin at 160 pounds to give the Trojans a 39-7 lead.
Then the Warriors went to work.
East Wake got three straight pins – from Hunter Perez at 170, Markus Mayner at 182 and Alston Willard at 195 to trim the deficit to 39-25.
An East Wake forfeit at 220 and a pin in 11.8 seconds by senior Amani Soumaoro at 285 pounds accounted for the final margin of 51-25.
Staples said his Warriors’ goal is to build toward a stronger future.
“We’ve got a young team,” Staples said. “We’ll only lose two seniors from this team. We are really building for next year.”
For Garner, the building process is underway and paying dividends.
“Our program is headed in the right direction,” Tingle said. “I am really proud of the way the guys have been wrestling. I couldn’t be happier.
“We still have a lot of work to do in the middle and heavier weights. But we’re on schedule. We are meeting our goals.”