As the Central Cabarrus and Northwest Cabarrus teams converged on the mat after their recent match, one of the wrestlers belted out a few strong words that celebrated the moment: “We’re a part of history, boys.”
The match between the Vikings and Trojans on Nov. 20 was historic. Held inside the Central Cabarrus football stadium, state athletic association officials believe it to be the first high school outdoor wrestling match in state history.
“I’m glad we did it,” said Central Cabarrus coach Ed Masterton. “I’m glad it’s over. We put a lot of work into it. We can concentrate on wrestling now. It was historic and we had a good time doing it.”
The weather was far from ideal, a risk organizers knew they were taking early in the process. Temperatures in the 50s caused an early evening dew to settle on the rubber mat placed at midfield, creating a slippery surface for half of the match.
But the uneasy conditions hardly dampened the evening’s mood. Masterton said the 175 or so attendees easily more than doubled the number that regularly turns out for a Central Cabarrus wrestling match.
Inspired by the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic, a regular season game played annually outdoors on New Year’s Day, Masterton and Central Cabarrus athletic director Kevin Bryant first thought of hosting an outdoor match last season, but they held off because of anticipated rugged weather and the potential for moisture settling under the wrestling mat on the stadium’s grass.
But since last year, Central had artificial turf installed in the stadium, making for a smooth, even surface that was much closer to the levelness of a gymnasium hardwood floor. School officials got the idea approved by state and county athletic officials and scheduled a match for the first week of the season.
Bob Mauldin, a Cabarrus County Sports Hall of Fame member who has been involved in high school wrestling in various capacities since 1961, books match officials across state. He called Mark Cain, a 10-year veteran of officiating and a Mount Pleasant resident, a couple days before the outdoor event.
“I said ‘I think that’s a little crazy but I’ll be there,’” said Cain. “I’m just glad to be a part of it, the first outdoor match.”
“I will let them wear undergarments,” added Cain, speaking minutes before the match. “I’m good with it. You’re not supposed to, it’s against the rules but with the weather, I’m going to allow it.”
The temperature at the start of the match was a brisk 55 degrees. By the end of the match, the thermometer dipped below 50.
After a couple of Northwest forfeits at 106 and 113 pounds, the Trojans’ Chris Linker and the Vikings’ Jeremiah Bobbitt squared off at 120 pounds, making them the first individuals to meet in an outdoor meet. Linker, who as a freshman was also wrestling his first high school match, won by a pin in the third period.
“It was kind of slippery,” said Linker. “I was kind of nervous. It was cold. I liked it. It was fun.”
By the 170-pound match – won on a pin by Central’s Josh Weinstein, the 3A state runner-up last year – the mat glistened with moisture. Heavier weight wrestlers complained about how their inability to get traction prevented them from getting low and “shooting” their opponents.
Only a couple competitors, both Vikings, took up Cain’s offer to allow undergarments below their singlets. Matthew Broomfield wore leggings but did not compete because of another Northwest forfeit. Ethan Gonder wore a T-shirt.
After the match was complete, won 48-30 by Central, wrestlers from both teams hammed it up by skating and taking head-first dives across the slick surface. They posed for a group photo afterward, recognizing their place in history.
Masterton and Bryant are already talking about hosting another outdoor meet next year, and adding mats and the number of teams.