With the team score tied and the outcome hinging on his individual match - the final one of the state championship meet - Davante Andujar felt this was where he was supposed to be.
Coming through in pressure situations, Andujar thought, is why his Jay M. Robinson High teammates selected him as one of the team captains prior to the season.
Wrestling up a weight class with his head bandaged like a Civil War soldier for most of the match, Andujar defeated Troy Jones 7-6 to clinch the Bulldog's victory over Orange High in the finals of the 3A state dual team tournament on Feb. 15.
As Andujar was preparing to compete in the individual state championship meet last weekend, the Robinson junior's heroics have so far been the highlight of an up-and-coming wrestling career. He and his teammates won the Bulldogs' first team state championship in any sport.
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Andujar, a junior, picked up wrestling at Harris Road Middle School, but he says he never even finished in the top three at the conference tournament in either of his two seasons. Still, he worked his way into Robinson's starting lineup as a freshman, in the 125-pound class.
By the end of the season, Andujar was one of the area's best. He won the ME-CA 7 4A Conference regular season and tournament titles, and he placed fifth at the regional tournament - one spot away from qualifying for the state meet.
Andujar repeated as conference champion as a sophomore, at 130 pounds, finished second at regionals and placed sixth at the state championships. He helped Robinson reach the semifinals of the state 4A dual-team tournament, the best finish ever for a Bulldogs wrestling team.
Wrestling at 135 pounds this season, Andujar captured his 100th career victory in the championship match of the Holy Angels tournament at Charlotte Catholic High. He lost to Northwest Cabarrus' Luke Dutch in the finals of the South Piedmont 3A Conference tournament.
Andujar was one of several standouts Robinson had in the lighter weights of its lineup. The Bulldogs, which won the team championship at the 3A Midwest Regionals at Mount Pleasant on Feb. 19-20, have state qualifiers in seven of the eight classes from 103 to 145 pounds.
Though some of its heavier weights struggled, Robinson posted a remarkable 19-2 record in regular season dual meets. The Bulldogs entered the state playoffs as the SPC champion but were forced to be on the road throughout the entire tournament.
Victories at Anson County over East Rowan and the host and second-day wins over Southwestern Randolph and Enka pushed Robinson into the state final. The last three wins were all by three points or less.
The championship match started with a Bulldogs victory at 145 pounds, but they fell behind 26-3 going into the heavyweight match. Robinson's Jordan Taylor turned the momentum with a decision win as the meet headed into the light weights.
Robinson won five of the next six matches to tie the score at 32-32. With the match on the line, coach Dave Parisi bumped Andujar up to the 140-pound division.
Andujar took a 2-1 first period lead but an old scab on the bridge of his nose started to drip blood in the second session. A skin sealant spray topped with a gauze pad taped in place around his head was the only combination of medical supplies that kept Andujar wrestling.
The lead increased to 5-1 after two periods, but Jones closed his deficit to 7-6 with a couple of points awarded for Andujar's stalling in the final 20 seconds. The horn sounded but a scoring issue had to be sorted out before Andujar was declared the victor.
A couple days later, Andujar was deferring hero status to a teammate though.
"If I were to give the team ball to anyone, per say, it would be to Jordan Taylor because he pulled through for us."