WENDELL — Two-and-a-half minutes into his 170-pound match with Clayton’s Chad Sprouse, Knightdale junior Brandon Skinner pinned his opponent to the mat. Less than two minutes later, his twin brother Bradley had won his 182-pound match in identical fashion.
The Skinner twins aren’t usually far apart. On Saturday, a season’s worth of brotherly sparring culminated in a pair of first-place finishes in the Greater Neuse River 4A wrestling tournament, as well as a Most Outstanding Wrestler honor for Brandon.
“They’re all business when they step on the mat,” Knightdale head coach Kenny Watkins said of the Skinner brothers. “We have a motto: this isn’t a leisure trip, it’s a business trip. They kind of take it to heart.”
Watkins’ Knights finished second in team points to West Johnston, which featured six of the tournament’s 14 first-place wrestlers. Tony Jimenez – the Wildcats’ 106-pound champion and the conference’s Wrestler of the Year – was the only wrestler not named Skinner to record a pin in the tournament’s final round.
The Knights, who were tangled with Harnett Central in a race for second place, counted heavily upon the efforts of its two most dominant wrestlers. After Knightdale’s Bobby Samuels earned a 7-1 victory in his 132-pound match, the Skinners knew what was needed of them.
“We had high expectations for them,” Watkins said after the tournament. “We needed them to take pins in the finals. That’s what we needed of them because we were in a dogfight to take second in the tournament.”
The Skinners delivered. Brandon’s pin of Sprouse came after 2:32 had elapsed, while Bradley’s pin of East Wake’s Markus Mayner occurred when the match was only 49 seconds old. Bradley, the agreed upon “bigger twin,” applauded his brother as he accepted the Most Outstanding Wrestler honors.
“We practice each other and make each other stronger,” Bradley Skinner said.
Brandon Skinner said the twin factor makes the brothers stronger on the mat.
“We would not be on as high of a competitive level without having a twin,” Brandon said. “He’s been my drill partner my whole life – I’ve been wrestling since I was four – and everyday I have someone my own size, my own age to help me get better.”
The brothers would not let on as to which Skinner holds the upper hand in their many practice battles, but Coach Watkins confirmed that the two go at it daily.
“Last year, they were very timid to wrestle each other,” Watkins said. “This year, they’ve really gotten after each other hard, and they’ve started to turn the corner. Their conditioning has gotten better, they’ve gotten stronger and technique-wise they’ve gotten a lot better.”
The Skinners accounted for two of Knightdale’s three victories in the final round to help the Knights finish ahead of Garner, which was represented twice in finals victories, and the likes of Harnett Central, Clayton and Southeast Raleigh. Each of those teams featured one first-place finisher.
Garner’s championships came from Mason Crawford at 113, in a 6-5 win over West’s Justin Lumpkin, and Aschalew Teka at 120.
West Johnston’s Raheem Simmons won at 126, while teammate Bryan Crutchfield was a 7-0 victor against Southeast Raleigh’s Darius Washington at 138. Leo Barber (145) and George Nathaniel (152) kept the wins coming for the Wildcats.
Michael Lines gave Clayton a conference champion at 160.
Sam Campbell of West (220) and Southeast’s Josh Mack (285) rounded out the individual champions. Mack beat Knightdale’s Tyler Palochak 1-0 for his title.
Neither Rolesville nor East Wake, the tournament’s host team, had a wrestler win a weight class. There were, however, three East Wake Warriors who competed in the tournament’s final round.
“It was nice to be able to host it at home,” East Wake head coach Brian Staples said. “It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it. … I think it went well.”
For the Skinner twins, the entire West Johnston squad and a handful of other medalists, the Greater Neuse River 4A wrestling tournament went particularly well.