RALEIGH — Leesville Road and Garner led their respective conferences on a day when the Cap 8 flexed its muscle on the wrestling mat in the Cap 8/Greater Neuse Challenge on Saturday at Millbrook.
Leesville topped a trio of Cap 8 teams that went 5-0 in the day-long event, outscoring its opponents 350-49. Millbrook and Heritage also went 5-0, with the host Wildcats totaling 326 points.
Trophies went to the team from each conference that totaled the most points.
Garner edged out East Wake in total points – 149-144 – to take home the trophy for the Greater Neuse River Conference. Garner, East Wake and Clayton each went 2-3.
The five Cap 8 teams posted a 19-6 record. Wakefield and Enloe each went 2-3. The Greater Neuse group went 6-19, with Southeast Raleigh and Rolesville both going 0-5. Rolesville, a new school in its first year of athletic competition, fielded a team of all freshmen and sophomores.
Leesville had the best day, racking up points and losing only a few matches. The most points the Pride surrendered in any match was 18 in its 63-18 win over East Wake.
“We have a big conference match coming up against Sanderson and this was a good stepping stone for that,” Leesville Road coach Jason Wyss said. “This was a good confidence-builder. The guys wrestled extremely well.
“It’s really good for both conferences. In years past, we didn’t see these guys. Now they are in our regional. It gives us a chance to compete conference versus conference. It lets you know what you need to work on to get to the regional tournament. We are going to have to battle through these guys to get to the state tournament. We got a good chance to see some good schools and some good wrestlers.”
Wyss cited his two captains – Matt Cesari and Tyler Ruff – for their performance in the event.
Cesari, normally a 152-pounder, moved up to the 160-point weight class to wrestle one of Clayton’s best wrestlers – Michael Lines – and won by pin. Ruff recorded five pins on the day.
“I think everything turned out well today,” Cesari said. “I think one of the biggest parts of today was the momentum that we got. Somebody would win and somebody else would say, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ and they would win. It was a perpetuating cycle. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going.”
Millbrook coach Scott Saby was pleased with the fifth annual Challenge.
“It gets to build a little rivalry between the two conferences,” Saby said. “It helps us to see each other. Also we get to wrestle against local teams and see a lot of different kids. … It’s really been an enjoyable event.”
Saby cited Dillon Dawkins (182 pounds), his son Crayton Saby (106), Alexander Janni (145) and Peter Neuenschwan (152) for standing out on Saturday for the Wildcats. He also welcomed back senior Nick Norton, who came back from an injury and wrestled several matches at 120 pounds.
Heritage, a school in just its fourth year, made its mark with five victories. The most spectacular moment for the Huskies was a pin by 220-pounder Dilon Campbell in just seven seconds against Garner.
A Millbrook wrestler had posted a 12-second pin early Saturday. Campbell said he had his sights set on getting a quicker one and went for his favorite move as soon as the referee’s hand dropped.
“My goal is to always be better,” said Campbell, a senior. “I knew what moved I typically liked – underhooks with a pinched knee. I hit it just right and stuck to the basics and got the finish. It was unreal.”
Campbell hooked both of his arms under his opponent’s, took him down and ended up with the fastest pin of his career.
“Today was a very big day for us,” Campbell said. “We really turned the corner today. The intensity is up. Everyone is wrestling better.”
Heritage coach Bryan Welsh said it was a significant day for a new school trying to build a program.
“We are on the right track,” Welsh said. “We’re trying to build a strong and solid program. We want athletes who are committed, responsible.
“I feel great about today. I saw one of my freshmen (Max Vandenberg) get his first win of the season, and that really makes me happy.”
Garner, like all the Greater Neuse teams, gained valuable experience wrestling against the traditionally strong programs at Millbrook and Leesville Road and also took home a trophy after winning its final match of the day – 42-30 over Enloe.
“It just shows we are moving forward,” Garner coach Ryan Tingle said of finishing as the top Greater Neuse participant. “I’m proud of the guys. They have been working hard.”
Garner senior Aschalew Teka went 5-0 in the Challenge and said it was a confidence-builder for himself and the team.
“Even though we might have lost some of these matches, we still learn from those,” Teka said. “We had some really close matches. Some of our freshmen lost by just a few points at the end and it helps us know what we need to work on.
“I lost in the last round (in the regionals) last year and was one point away from going to the states. That is what drives me this year. Today gives me confidence.”
Amani Soumaoro, wrestling at 285, also went 5-0 for the Trojans.
East Wake coach Brian Staples called it a positive experience for his team.
“For those ones with aspirations of going on (in playoff competition), this a good measuring stick,” Staples said. “They get to see the top teams in the Cap 8 and see where they stand. It’s good for them.”
It was a good day for wrestling in general, with 10 teams spending the day on the mats and picking up valuable experience before heading back into conference competition.