RALEIGH — Sanderson wrestling coach Jeremy Barefoot changed the format for the school’s annual Sanderson Duals, but the result was the same as the past two years: Sanderson collected the championship trophy, celebrated and posed for team photos.
The Spartans defeated West Johnston in the final of the eight-team tournament, 44-21. Sanderson cruised through earlier rounds with dominating wins over Beddington, 84-0; Fuquay-Varina, 72-9; and Cleveland, 42-24.
“It’s always special to win the first-place trophy in your own house,” Barefoot said. “We came in with the mindset we wanted to win the title and we had a lot of kids do a great job. Some of the team scores weren’t close, but there were a lot of tough matches. Schools like Green Hope had a lot of tough individual wrestlers.”
Sanderson’s three featured wrestlers turned in unbeaten records: senior Adam DeRose at 113 pounds, senior Christopher Grannan at 195 and senior Antwuan Elliott at 220.
Elliott’s 3-1 win over West Johnston’s Sam Campbell was the upset of the day in a match that took place when the two schools met in the first-place matches.
Campbell, a junior with an intimidating physique and three or four inches on Elliott, earned All-American honors at the National High School Coaches Association Folkstyle championships in April in Virginia Beach. He finished seventh and the top eight earn All-America designation.
Campbell had pinned Elliott when they met earlier in the season. In Saturday’s rematch, they were stalemated at 1-1 until Elliott recorded a takedown in the final seconds.
“That was an amazing match,” Barefoot said. “Antwuan did an unbelievable job. He has a lot of heart. The first time they met, Antwuan had just come out of football season and he got pinned pretty quickly. But he’s been working very hard.”
Elliott has high self-expectations, Barefoot said, and the pin gave the senior an added boost of confidence.
“This win tells me if I can beat him I can be an All-American, too,” Elliott said. “After I lost to him, I came into this match with my mind made up I was going to change the outcome. I’ve been working hard in practice, and I wanted to win to help our team win the tournament.”
Knightdale defeated Cleveland in the third-place match, 42-40. Knights junior Brandon Skinner turned in a 5-0 day at 170 pounds. He was not only happy with the way he competed he said one of the advantages of a dual meet tournament is the additional matches compared to a traditional tournament format.
“You get a lot more experience that way,” he said. “You might only wrestle three times in a regular tournament. I was happy with how I wrestled on my feet, and our team’s third-place finish is the best we’ve done in this tournament.”
Barefoot turned the organization and the promotion of this year’s event over to Sanderson students in a sports marketing classtaught by Georgiana Consolo.
“This was their final exam and they did an outstanding job,” said Barefoot, who presented Consolo with a medal along with the other athletes receiving awards.