ERWIN — Not even a jump to the 3A level has slowed down Corinth Holders.
The Pirates wrestling team, which reached the state quarterfinals a year ago at the 2A level, opened play in its new 3A conference Wednesday with a 57-22 road victory at Triton.
The four year-old school has swelled to 1,600 students, prompting a move to the Two Rivers Conference where it joins Triton, Cleveland, Smithfield-Selma, South Johnston and Western Harnett.
“It’s definitely a challenge and we’ve embraced it and I’m looking forward to it,” coach Eric Wischhusen said. “It’s a much stronger conference than we were in last year and there’s some good teams. As a coach I’m looking forward to seeing how we’ll adjust making that move.”
So far so good.
The Pirates snatched the first four matches of the night including consecutive pins by Jordan Hadding, David Price and Greg Alford at 120, 126 and 132 pounds, respectively. Cameron Brewer followed with a 9-4 decision at 138 and Corinth Holders was off and running with a 27-6 lead.
“It always helps to get out to that kind of a lead,” Wischhusen said. “I would say that’s absolutely a strength in our lineup from about 113 to about 138. We’ve only got one freshman (Price) in there for us so that’s always good.
“When you’ve got kids in the higher grades that have been out there for a few years and have more experience that’s always a strength.”
The Hawks capitalized on some experience of their own in the middle weights to close the scoring gap to 33-22. Junior Caleb Brown improved to 10-2 on the year with his pin of freshman Cameron Smith at 145 and senior Malik Abney remained undefeated at 11-0 with his 11-2 decision over junior Dillon Brennan at 170. At 160, Triton senior Christian Canales scored a pin over junior Luke Turner.
But at 220, the Pirates’ Elliott Lindley regained momentum when he took just 15 seconds to pin Chris Lemon and then Corinth Holders heavyweight Chris Solano put the finishing touches on the victory despite being outsized by opponent Shawn Lemon. Solano trailed 2-0 after the first period but nine seconds into the second frame he dropped Lemon with a takedown and applied the pin.
“That was a big mismatch in weight,” Wischhusen said. “Chris Solano looked good there. We’ve got some good kids that have stepped up for us in some key places. We looked good tonight. I’m really proud of the boys. They wrestled strong.”
Wischhusen has reaped the benefits of the growing school as he had around 50 kids come out for the team this year.
“For a lot of teams it’s tough to fill those kinds of numbers,” Wischhusen said. “So we’re really lucky and fortunate to have that many kids. We’ll be 4A here in a couple of years.”
Corinth Holders surrendered a forfeit at 106 pounds while Triton did the same at 113, 182 and 195.
The match hadn’t been over for five minutes when the Pirates wrestlers were already on the bus.
“We have an hour and a half drive back to the school,” Wischhusen said.
Not everything about the new conference is exciting.