Just like it was in the Carolina Six and the Mid-State 2A before that, Orange High Schools wrestling program remains the paradigm for success in the Big Eight Conference.
Orange (24-2 overall and 7-0 in conference matches) completed another undefeated season against league opponents with last Saturdays sweep of Chapel Hill and Oxford Webb. Their wins earned the Panthers their 11th consecutive conference title.
The Panthers have finished in first every year since they left the 4A PAC-6 Conference in 2003.
Every team is different, Orange coach Bobby Shriner said last weekend. Ive told people many times before that the past doesnt matter. All that matters is now. But these guys have proven themselves all year.
Ranked No. 5 by the News & Observer, Orange dominated No. 14 Chapel Hill in a 55-6 Panther victory. Orange followed that with an 81-0 blowout of Webb.
There were a lot of close matches, Shriner said. It was much closer than the final score.
Before hitting the mats Saturday, Orange honored its 14 seniors with a brief ceremony.
Saturdays Big Eight matches were make-ups from earlier dates pushed back because of winter weather and school closures. The fact that the Panthers had wrestled Southern Durham in a regularly scheduled conference match on Friday night, winning 66-6, made Saturdays wins even more impressive.
Our goal is to be what they are now, Chapel Hill Coach Tripp Price said, acknowledging the Panthers success.
Chapel Hills two wins came on IMoney Rushings 6-4 decision over Gonzalo Garcia Contoral at 126 pounds and from George McBurney, who eked out a 2-1 decision against Kyle Dawson at 220.
Price was especially gratified to see Rushing win after he trailed early. Two takedowns in the third period keyed his comeback.
Price agreed with Shriner that the Tigers had put up a better fight than the final margin would indicate.
We had a bunch of matches that went the distance, Price noted.
Price cited Chapel Hill 106-pounder Zachary Allen, who dominated the last two periods but couldnt catch up after the points Orange got in the first before Grant Thompson claimed the 4-1 decision.
Chapel Hills Tommy Morrison wrestled up from 138 to 145 pounds and went 6 minutes with Trent Tanner before the Orange junior won an 8-4 decision. And Hudson Price, son of the CHHS head coach, also went through all three periods before dropping a 3-0 decision to Byron Stephenson at 285 pounds.
Tanner and Stephenson were just two of 12 Orange wrestlers who went 2-0 Saturday. Grant Thompson (106), Jamison Askew (113), Joe Scott (120), Jared Flynn (132), Collin Smith (138), Melik Jimenez (152), Joshua Clark (160), Austin Peters (170), David Peters-Logue (182) and Argie Burnette (195) each collected two wins.
Scott, Smith, Clark and Peters-Logue each pinned one opponent Saturday, while Jimenez picked up a major decision.
Orange and Chapel Hill (21-7 overall) both got to host first-round opponents in the N.C. High School Athletics Association dual-team tournament. The NCHSAA released the sub-regional groupings on Monday. See www.newsobserver.com for details.