The Lake Norman area hasn't always been known as a wrestling powerhouse. But in the last five years, with the emergence of Lake Norman and Mooresville as two of the top teams in the state, the region has become a hotbed of wrestling talent.
The area again had success this year, as coach Morgan Fore and his Lake Norman team won the I-Meck regular season title and was 4A West regional runner-up, going 29-5 this season.
Mooresville won a school-record 33 matches. The Blue Devils claimed the I-Meck tournament title and went all the way to the 4A dual team state semifinals before losing a 34-31 heartbreaker to eventual state champion Parkland. Mooresville, led by coach Ben Watson, also finished fourth at the regional meet.
Hough, in its second year as a program, was also impressive by finishing second in the I-Meck tournament and third at the 4A West Regional meet.
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While the public schools had impressive years, SouthLake Christian had its best season, finishing as independent school state runner-ups and having four individual state champions.
Lake Norman wrestler of the year: Cody Karns, Lake Norman
Cody Karns has been a major factor since he stepped on the mat for Lake Norman High.
After a fourth-place finish at states as a freshman, Karns was third at the state meet last year, winning a school-record 53 matches with an I-Meck conference and 4A West regional championship title in the process.
This season, he was even better. He not only won the I-Meck and regional championships again but went 55-2 while coming up just short in the state finals as the 4A runner-up.
Karns' goals next year will be clear: a state championship. The rising Lake Norman senior will do everything in his power to finish on top.
Lake Norman wrestling coach of the year: John Nerness, SouthLake Christian
Seven years ago, John Nerness helped start the SouthLake Christian wrestling program as a club team.
After steady improvement and climbing up the private school ranks, Nerness and the Eagles had their best season in its history as four different SouthLake wrestlers won state individual championships (Sam Bryant, Chris Green, Hamilton Hewitt and Scott Richardson) to lead their team to a state runner-up finish.
With three of his four state champions returning, Nerness and his Eagles' future looks bright. Expectations of state championships already are driving the team to get ready for another run next season.
All-Lake Norman wrestling team
106 pounds - Chris Green (SouthLake Christian): Sophomore won NCISAA state championship, went 29-4 this season.
113 pounds - Cody Karns (Lake Norman): Junior was I-Meck, 4A West regional champion, state runner-up.
120 pounds - Wesley Petrick (Hopewell): Titan standout was I-Meck runner-up, third at regionals, seventh at states.
126 pounds - Adam Nivens (Hough): Junior led upstart Hough team with I-Meck title, regional runner-up finishes.
132 pounds - Tanner Russ (Hough): Another Husky I-Meck champion, he was regional runner-up.
138 pounds - Hamilton Hewitt (SouthLake Christian): From fifth-seed to state champion, freshman went 22-8.
145 pounds - Jake Efird (Hough): Another big factor for talented Huskies as I-Meck and regional runner-up.
152 pounds - Sam Bryant (SouthLake Christian): Junior was a state champion after going 39-5 on the season.
160 pounds - Palmer Maples (Hough): I-Meck and 4A West regional champion was fourth at states.
170 pounds - Dontrez Patterson (Mooresville): Senior finished strong as I-Meck champion and in third-place at both regionals and states.
182 pounds - Jonathan DiBernard (Lake Norman): I-Meck champion was also third at 4A West regionals.
195 pounds - Antonio Vanderburg (Mooresville): Senior won I-Meck title before being regional runner-up and fifth at states.
220 pounds - Scott Richardson (SouthLake Christian): Eagles' state champion, a senior, was 22-3 this season.
285 pounds - Zach Brown (Mooresville): Blue Devils' heavyweight was I-Meck and regional champion before finishing third at states.