John Nerness has always set high goals for SouthLake Christian’s wrestling team.
The bar was raised by the Eagles’ wrestlers at last month’s N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association state tournament.
SouthLake Christian wrestlers took home individual titles in five weight classes at the NCISAA state tournament, held Feb. 21 at Charlotte Latin.
That was not only the most individual titles among the 16 teams entered, but it was the most by the Eagles program since it began in 2007.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the guys,” said Nerness, SouthLake’s coach since the program’s inception. “They showed up like men who wanted to win and become state champs and win that final match.”
The Eagles’ state champions were:
▪ Senior Hamilton Hewitt, who wrapped up his high school career with a 45-5 record and his fourth consecutive state title, just the third wrestler in NCISAA history to do so. He won the 138-pound title as a freshman, and three straight at 145 pounds.
▪ Sophomore Dylan Boone won his second straight state title, winning at 113 pounds to end the season with a 52-7 record. Boone won his first title at 108 pounds last year, after finishing second in that weight class in 2013 as an eighth grader.
▪ Senior Adam Edwards won his first state title, taking the 126-pound championship and finishing the season at 53-7. He finished second in the state at 115 pounds two years ago.
▪ Senior D.J. Wilson also was a first-time state champ, taking the 182-pound title after finishing second the previous year. He ended the season with a 31-1 record, best on the team in winning percentage (96.9 percent).
▪ Junior Hunter Allen finished a breakout season with his first state title, taking the 220-pound championship despite giving up more than 30 pounds to his opponents. Allen, who weighed in at 186 pounds, ended the year with a 52-9 record. He had last competed in the state tournament as a freshman, but was eliminated early.
“I knew by the second week in January that we were going to have five state champions,” said Hewitt, who was also named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. “Just wrestling with all of these guys in practice, I knew they were going to win. I just didn’t know they would all completely dominate in the finals like they did.”
Allen had the closest match of SouthLake’s five state champs, taking a 9-7 decision from Dewayne Washington of Raleigh’s Ravenscroft School in the final.
The other finals also came down to decisions: Hewitt edged Providence Day’s Gil Gerber 5-2 for the 145-pound title, Boone beat Metrolina Christian’s Jacob Hattaway 11-5 for the 113-pound title, Edwards beat Ravenscroft’s Blake Sanders 9-2 for the 126-pound title, and Wilson took an 11-1 major decision over Providence Day’s Bryson Spivock for the 182-pound title.
“All of them showed decisive victories,” Nerness said. “Hamilton had a close match, because Gil’s a great wrestler and we knew that’d be a great match. Either Ham or Gil could have bumped up to 152 and probably have won it easily.
“This gets those younger guys that are devoted, they see that and think ‘Hey, I want to be a state champ.’ Winning state titles is the qualitative aspect of that team component. That’s what we’re always striving for.”
The next step for SouthLake Christian’s wrestling program is a state team championship. The Eagles have finished second to Charlotte Latin in three of the past four state tournaments, despite winning more individual titles (15 to 11) over the span.
“It’s always the goal, but it’ll be tough,” Boone said. “We can still do it, because Latin and all those other teams will lose people too.”
Said Allen: “It’s still the goal, but when it comes down to it, each person has to do their own part. If you’re focused on making yourself better, when you’re wrestling your partners at practice, you’re going to be making them better. Hopefully by doing that, we’ll have a good enough team next year to win a state title.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.