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Charlotte Latin claims another state wrestling title

By Bill Kiser
Correspondent

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HIGH POINT Just 24 hours ago, Charlotte Latin wrestling coach Richard Fletcher wondered if his team would be in contention to win a state title.

On the other hand, the Hawks’ wrestlers had no such worries. Relying on its depth, Charlotte Latin beat out SouthLake Christian to win its third consecutive N.C. Independent School Athletic Association state championship Saturday.

Despite winning just two weight-class titles, the Hawks finished with 199 points, 35 ahead of the Eagles (164), who had a tournament-best three individual champs. Host team Wesleyan Christian edged Providence Day for third (123-120).

“I wasn’t worried about our chances going into the finals … but (Friday), I was very nervous,” said Fletcher, whose team has now won seven NCISAA titles since 2003.

“After the last round of consolations, we knew we had it locked up. Those kids that had to wrestle in the consis did a really great job, and locked it up early for us.”

While SouthLake Christian had a meet-best nine wrestlers advance to the semifinals, only four survived to make it to the championship round. Meanwhile, Latin had six of its eight semifinalists advance, giving it a 30-point edge before the remaining consolation rounds began Saturday.

Throw in four other wrestlers advancing to the consolation final round – which decides third and fourth place in each weight class – and the Hawks extended their lead to 42 points before the championship round.

“We knew it was a possibility,” to win a third straight state title, said Latin wrestler Billy McClelland. “We worked harder this year – both myself and the team – than any year before this. We knew it'd be tough … but we knew if we wrestled well, we could win it.”

McClelland and Toby Okwara both repeated as state champs in winning the Hawks’ two individual titles. McClelland became a three-time winner by taking the 134-pound class, while Okwara took the 287-pound class.

Still, SouthLake Christian made things interesting, getting weight class victories from Dylan Boone at 108 pounds, Chris Green at 140 pounds and Hamilton Hewitt at 147 pounds.

It was the second state title in three years for Green, who won at 106 pounds in 2012, and the third straight for Hewitt, who won at 138 pounds in 2012 and at 147 pounds last year.

“If we would’ve won it this year, I would have been very pleasantly surprised,” Eagles coach John Nerness said. “The team we’ve got is still pretty young … so next year, we’re going to be in much better position.”

Other area weight-class winners were Gil Gerber of Providence Day, who won the 128-pound title, and Metrolina Christian’s Cannon Long, who capped an undefeated season with the 197-pound title.

It was the second state title in the past three years for Long, who was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler. He won the NCISAA title at 195 pounds in 2012.

Other winners were Wesleyan Christian's Bradley Davis (115 pounds) and Sam Pruett (172 pounds), Cary Academy's Matthew Gibbon (122 pounds) and Ian Siegal (154 pounds), Brian Murphy of Forsyth Country Day (162 pounds), Garrett Hicks of Raleigh Ravenscroft (184 pounds), and Stephen Bridges of Christ School (222 pounds).

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