High School Sports

Jay Edwards’ Spotlight Athletes: wrestler overcomes odds, wins match to secure state title

West Lincoln, led by Brock Steele, won the NCHSAA 2A state wrestling title
West Lincoln, led by Brock Steele, won the NCHSAA 2A state wrestling title Special to the Observer

West Lincoln senior Brock Steele walked to the mat last week knowing he had to win for his Rebels’ wrestling team to advance to the 2A state championship match.

But as Steele made his way to the mat in front a capacity crowd at Newton Conover (Jan. 31), he knew the feeling because he was in the same position two days earlier.

Steele won the final match (in his 285-pound weight class) of the 2A state quarterfinal against Central Academy to give West Lincoln at 33-32 victory in front a full house at home Jan. 29.

Steele did it again two days against Newton Conover, beating rival, Ryan Walker 3-2 to give the Rebels’ team a 30-25 win, a West Regional title and a berth in the 2A state championship for the second straight season.

“I tried to think of my matches against (Central Academy and Newton Conover) as just another match and go out and wrestle my best,” said Steele, who also starts both ways at offensive and defensive tackle for the West Lincoln football team. “…But I was very nervous going into both matches. It’s easy to say it’s just another match, but when you know it’s all on you to win that last match for your team to win, you better win. Fortunately, I was able to go out and get the win for my team both times.”

“There was a lot of pressure on Brock (Steele) to win that final match two nights in a row in front of packed houses,” said West Lincoln wrestling coach, Butch Ross, who is in 40th year of coaching the West Lincoln program, including 24 years as the head coach. “…But he stepped right up and got the wins.”

Steele also won his match in the 2A state championship, beating Croatan’s Nathan Waltrip, 5-3, to help West Lincoln (27-2 this season) roll to a 60-14 victory to give the Rebels their second straight 2A state championship in a row at the Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse.

Steele was named the 2A state championship’s most outstanding wrestler for his efforts.

West Lincoln, which has won four 2A state wrestling titles (2000, 2015, 2018, 2019i) also repeated for the first time in school history.

“It’s a huge honor to get the MVP (most outstanding wrestling) of the state championship, and to be able to help my team win it all (state championship),” Steele said. “It’s a great way to wrap up our senior year. I’m me and my boys could repeat as (state) champions.”

While Steele is doing with team portion of his West Lincoln wrestling career, he still has two individual, high school tournaments left in the 2A West Regional (Feb. 8-9 at West Lincoln) and the 2A state championships (Feb. 14-16 at Greensboro Coliseum).

Steele, 35-7 this season, hopes to finish his West Lincoln career strong.

“I know every match I wrestle from here on out could be my last (match), so I have to go out and wrestle my best and leave it all out there,” Steele said. “…I’m confident that if I wrestle my best, I can have my best finishes at both regionals and states.”

No matter how his Steele’s West Lincoln wrestling career finishes, he has a bright future off the mat, too.

Steele, who boasts a 4.3 grade-point average, will attend Western Carolina University, where he plans on focusing on the medical field, and hopes one day to a physical therapist or nurse.

Tommy Pavia Special to the Observer

Nathan Dugan, Lake Norman Wrestling: The Lake Norman senior got another big victory on the mat this season knocking off previously unbeaten, Davie County standout Jesus Olmedo (45-0 coming into the match), despite giving up 30 pounds in the Jan. 30 dual playoff match.

Dugan, a Princeton University commit, is ranked No. 10 in the nation in high 195-pound weight class, according to flowwrestling.org.

Dugan, the 4A state championship at 182 pounds last year, looks to finish his career with a second straight state title.

Garrett Boone/Luke Foster, South Mecklenburg Swimming: The South Mecklenburg seniors both made big contributions to the Sabres’ boys’ swim team winning the 4A West Regional title at Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center (MCAC) in Uptown Charlotte, Feb. 2.

Boone set 4A West Region records in winning the 100 freestyle (45.68) and 200 individual medley (1:52.34).

Boone also led the 200 medley relay to victory with teammates Wesley Barnett, Coleman McCreery and Ty Vendal.

Meanwhile, Foster broke a 19-year old school record in winning the 4A West Regional diving championship with 548.45 points.

Ethan Foster, Luke’s twin brother, was the 4A West Regional runner-up.

Charlotte Latin Boys’ Swim Team: The Charlotte Latin boys’ swim team won the CISAA conference championships by 62 points at the MCAC in Uptown Charlotte, Jan. 30.

The Hawks’ boys set three different conference records with sophomore Andy Dorsel setting a new record in winning the 200 individual medley (1:55.56) and sophomore Stephen Kim setting a new mark to win the 100 breaststroke (58.26).

Charlotte Latin’s 200 medley relay (Jackson Davis, S. Kim, Evan Dorsel and Kwame Thornhill) also teamed up to win the event while breaking a 12-year old CISAA record with a time of 1:37.82.

The Charlotte Latin boys’ swim team will try to win their seventh straight NCISAA state championship at the Greensboro Aquatic Center, Feb. 11.

Jack Walker, Myers Park Swimming: The Myers Park senior won both the 200 and 500 freestyle titles at the 4A West Regional meet Feb. 2.

Walker, a University of Virginia commit, also helped the Mustangs’ 200 freestyle relay (with Hugh Svendsen, Josh Walker and Graham Hohnbaum) and 400 freestyle relay (Spencer Freeman, G. Hohnbaum and H. Svendsen) teams to 4A West Regional runner-ups finishes.

Sean Teague, Ardrey Kell Swimming: The Ardrey Kell senior won championships in all four of his events at the 4A West Regional meet, Feb. 2.

Teague won both of his individual events, taking the 4A West crown in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

Teague also helped the 200 medley relay (with teammates, Leo Tutovani, Austin Cummings and Jason Lee) to victory in a meet record time (1:26.38), while also winning the regional title in the 400 freestyle relay (with L. Tutovani, Jack Valiquette and Josh Fletcher).

Kris Robinson, Lincolnton Basketball: The Lincolnton junior guard poured in 57 points in an 83-76 win over Bandys Feb. 1, tying the Lincoln County record for points in a game (tying former East Lincoln guard Sage Surratt).

Robinson was 27-of-29 from the free throw line, made nine two-point baskets and four three-pointers in the his record-setting performance.

Robinson had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals in an 84-62 loss to rival, East Lincoln, Jan. 29.

Robinson is averaging 30 points, five rebounds, two steals and three assists per game for Lincolnton (6-12, 3-7 in the South Fork 2A conference) this season.

Queens Grant Basketball Team: The Queens Grant basketball team had a day to remember as the served the athletes at the Special Olympic basketball games last Friday (Feb. 1), running dribbling, shooting and passing drills.

Queens Grant Coach Jay Forsythe, his assistant coach Maurice Williams, and Stallions players including Josh Suggs, Jah’Quez Sanders, Xavier Westbrook, Jeremiah Murphy, Ahmad McKnight, L.B. Boyette, Darnell Craig, Javan Cox and Josh Williams all participated in the event at Huntersville United Methodist Church.

While the Queens Grant team fell just short in a 54-50 loss to Pine Lake Prep that same night, the coaches are proud that their team knows that life “is about more than just basketball,” according to Coach Forsythe.

Queens Grant (15-6, 7-2 in the PAC 7, 1A conference) also won 57-45 at Union Academy last week, behind Sanders’ 22 points and five steals, Jan. 29.

Cyncier Harrison, Providence Day Basketball: The Providence Day sophomore point guard averaged 28 points, five assists and five rebounds in two key CISAA wins last week.

Harrison had 21 points, four rebounds and six assists in a 64-37 win over Charlotte Country Day, Jan. 29.

Three nights later, Harrison poured in 34 points to go with five rebounds and four assists in a 57-51 win over Cannon School.

Harrison is averaging 16 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals per game for the Chargers (12-14, 3-5 in the CISAA) this season.

Charlotte Observer Girls’ Athletes of the Week

Nia Daniel, Hickory Ridge Basketball: The Hickory Ridge senior averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and three steals per game in wins over Garinger, Providence and Rocky River last week.

Daniel, a University of North Carolina signee, had her best game of the week with 27 points, 14 rebounds and three steals in a 54-41 win at Rocky River, Feb. 1.

Daniel is averaging 23 points, nine rebounds, five steals and two assists per game for Hickory Ridge (17-2, 9-1 in the Southwestern 4A (SW4A) conference) this season.

Jessica Timmons, North Mecklenburg Basketball: The North Mecklenburg sophomore was honored for scoring her 1,000th-career point in a ceremony during the West Charlotte game, Jan. 29.

Timmons had 36 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists in the 61-52 win over West Charlotte the same night.

Three nights later, Timmons poured in 37 points, had eight rebounds, three steals and two assists in 60-58 overtime loss to arch rival Hopewell.

Timmons, who is an ACC, Big 10 and SEC basketball recruit, according to North Meck basketball coach, Jennifer Baker, is averaging 24 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two assists per game for the Vikings (13-7, 6-4 in the I-Meck 4A conference).

Timmons is on pace to be North Mecklenburg girls’ basketball’s all-time leading scorer, a mark currently held by former Viking standout, three-time, WNBA all-star Andrea Stinson.

Chyna Cornwell, Newton Conover Basketball: The Newton Conover junior center averaging 31 points and 19 rebounds to help the Red Devils to their 15th straight win after a 1-4 start.

Cornwell had 33 points and 22 rebounds in a 71-59 win at Bandys Jan. 30.

Two nights later, she had 29 points and 15 rebounds in Newton Conover’s 70-35 win at West Lincoln.

Cornwell, who has double-doubles in all 20 of the Red Devils’ games, is averaging 28 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks per contest for Newton Conover (16-4, 10-0 in the South Fork 2A conference) this season.

Janiya Downs, South Rowan Basketball: The South Rowan senior had another big week, averaging 42 points per contest in two games.

Downs started her week with 30 points, 14 rebounds and eight steals in a 48-34 win at Oak Grove, Jan. 30.

Two nights later with her team down three starters because of the flu, Downs carried the Raiders pouring in a career-high and Rowan County record 53 points in a tough 61-60 loss at West Davidson.

Downs is averaging 32 points, 13 rebounds, five steals and two assists per game for South Rowan (11-8, 10-3 in the Central Carolinas’ conference) this season.

Kathryn Vandiver, Charlotte Latin Basketball: The Charlotte Latin senior had a week she will never forget.

Vandiver started her week by committing to go to school and play basketball at Washington & Lee University.

Vandiver had 15 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and a steal in the Hawks’ 59-45 win at Cannon School Jan. 29.

She finished off the week on senior night with 17 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and three assists in a 39-22 victory over Covenant Day.

Vandiver is averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals per game.

Braylyn Milton, Independence Basketball: The Independence sophomore guard averaged 17 points, seven assists, eight steals and five rebounds per games to help the Patriots to wins at SW4A conference rivals Porter Ridge and East Mecklenburg.

Milton had 12 points, 10 steals, seven assists and three rebounds in a 60-36 win at East Mecklenburg, Jan. 29.

Three nights later, Milton poured in 22 points and had six rebounds, seven assists and five steals in a 72-19 victory at Porter Ridge.

Milton, whose older brother, Raja, is a starting guard on Independence boys’ basketball team, is averaging 16 points, three assists, five rebounds and four steals per game for the Patriots (9-11, 5-5 in the SW4A conference) this season.

Elizabeth Sowards, Hough Swimming: The Hough sophomore led her Huskies girls’ team to the 4A West Regional title at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center (MCAC) Feb. 2.

Sowards won the 50 freestyle, finished fourth in the 100 freestyle and helped her 200 freestyle relay (with Marissa Lassell, Kensley Merritt and her sister, Savannah Sowards) and 400 freestyle relay (with Amaya Hanley, K. Merritt and S. Sowards) to runner-up finishes.

Ellie Marquardt, South Mecklenburg Swimming: The South Mecklenburg senior won two individuals events and helped another Sabres’ relay team to victory at the 4A West Regional meet at MCAC in Uptown Charlotte Feb. 2.

Marquardt won the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle, while leading the 400 freestyle relay with teammates, Katie Rauch, Brynn Martinson and Haley Robinson to another regional victory.

Marquardt, a Princeton commit, is still unbeaten in individual events (at dual meets) in her South Mecklenburg career.

** Information published today includes statistics through February 3.

Want to nominate an athlete?: Athletes of the week highlights high school players with outstanding performances. The goal is to recognize all athletes in all sports, both the most accomplished and the underrated or underappreciated players. If you want to suggest someone to be included in the Athletes of the week column, send email to Jay Edwards at edwardswork23@gmail.com. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.