Lake Norman and Mooresville high schools have been archrivals in every sport for nine years, the whole time they've co-existed in the Lake Norman area.
But the rivalry has never been fiercer or closer than this season's battle between the Wildcats and Blue Devils wrestling teams.
Lake Norman is 28-1 (4-0 in the I-Meck Conference) and ranked No. 2 in the state coaches poll (records as of Thursday). It has won four tournaments so far this season, including the Sarah Wilkes Tournament at Morehead High School in Eden on Jan. 15.
Mooresville is 22-1 (3-0 in the I-Meck) and ranked No. 4 in the state. It has won five tournaments, including the Hough Duals, also Jan. 15.
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Both rosters are filled with top-notch talent. That has allowed both teams to dominate their competition. The Wildcats' only loss was to Christiansburg High School in Virginia; the Blue Devils' only match loss was to defending 3A champion Concord Robinson.
The Wildcats currently have nine wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight classes, including three who are ranked No. 1 in their weight class: senior Harrison Honeycutt, a two-time defending state champion in the 215-pound class; sophomore Cody Karns (103) and senior Josh Smith (160).
Seniors Hunter Dowless (171), Collin Foster (189), Alex Henry (152), Mike Hayes (145), Ryan Renfroe (125) and Nick Rodrigues (140) are all also ranked among the top eight in their weight classes.
Lake Norman is the defending I-Meck regular-season and tournament champion and the defending 4A Western regional champion. It ran up a school-best 33-5 record last season, beating Mooresville (4A regional runner-up) for the conference title for the first time ever. The Wildcats also finished fifth overall at the 4A state meet.
"The goal for us is to win it all," Lake Norman wrestling coach Morgan Fore said earlier this season. "We've talked about our goals about a week after the season last year. We've been working toward that since then. ... But first we want to win conference championships."
Mooresville, led by head coach Ben Watson, has an equally impressive collection of talent, with seven wrestlers in the state's top 10 in their weight classes.
Senior Tyler Bruton, ranked No. 2 in the 160-pound class, and classmate Hunter Hefner, No. 4 at 145, lead the group. Seniors Bryson Luffman (189) and Connor Osbourne (171), juniors Zach Brown (285) and Matt Krider (119) and sophomore Sam Crisp (103) also are among the state's best (all in top 8).
Both teams claim to be the best in the I-Meck and the state. That question will get some answers when the Wildcats cross town to battle the Blue Devils at Mooresville on Feb. 2.
From then on, both teams will look to win the conference tournament the following Saturday, Feb. 5, before taking on the postseason slate for the final three weeks of February.
Others to watch
Several other local individual wrestlers could have an impact in their conference, regional and state meets.
Hopewell senior Nick Watson is No. 3 in the state in the 215-pound weight class, according to www.retrorankings.com.
North Mecklenburg seniors Joe DiDonato (152) and Latham York (189) have been standouts for the Vikings this season.
East Lincoln sophomore Jeremy Tarleton (145) and South Iredell seniors Henry Bustle (152) and James Turner (171) should be factors for their teams in the postseason, as all are ranked in the top 10 in their weight classes.
Southlake Christian senior Sam Remick (160) and junior Cody Tucker (125) will look to win for the Eagles at both the Metrolina and NCISAA state meets, if they advance.