Avery wrestling week highlighted by Alumni Night, comeback win against Madison
Jamie Shell / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Earning victories in bouts were Zac Freeman by a 4-0 decision at 145 pounds, Ryan Sheppard by a 7-2 decision at 195 pounds, Scott Wiseman by pinfall at 220 pounds and Blake Johnson by pinfall at 285 pounds.
The last thing Avery wrestling wanted to do in its home match against Madison on Friday, Jan. 11, was to disappoint the large contingent of Vikings fans and alumni with a loss to another Western Highlands Conference foe, especially before more than three dozen former Vikings grapplers on hand for Alumni Night.
A strong performance, highlighted by a pair of impressive victories, made the difference as Avery downed the rival Patriots 36-35 to earn its 13th team victory of the season.
A key bout, and possibly the biggest victory of the evening, involved freshman Will Jordan. Jordan, weighing in at 80 pounds, was bumped up to wrestle in the 113-pound weight class against Madison's Stephen Smith, who outweighed him by more than 30 pounds. Undaunted, Jordan used workmanlike effort and tenacity to take down and frustrate his foe, eventually earning a pinfall win.
"It takes a team to win a match, and I decided to bump Will up," Avery head wrestling coach Derrick Calloway said. "I told Will that we could win or lose the match based on what he did, and moving him was a huge part of winning the dual. Will said he would do whatever he had to do to help our team, and he is one of the leaders on this team. If you gave a piece of that kid's heart to every member of our team, you would have a state championship team without a doubt."
Additional winners in bouts prior to intermission included Preston Childress at 126 pounds (8-4 decision victory against Madison's Elijah Kimbrough), Harley Rash at 132 pounds (5-1 decision victory against Wynn Haslam) and Zac Freeman (6-3 decision victory against Luke Clark).
Midway through the dual meet, action was temporarily suspended as Avery wrestling celebrated Alumni Night. More than 35 former Vikings wrestling standouts were present and recognized by Calloway and his staff for their contributions to the tradition and success of AHS wrestling throughout the school's history. Representatives from the school's first wrestling season in 1968 through present day were on hand and received a standing ovation from the capacity Avery crowd.
"Alumni Night was awesome. We had so many of our former coaches present. To me, it was a special event because I'm so blessed to be back at Avery. It was such a thrill to have so many fans supporting our kids," Calloway added. "The turnout goes to show how passionate people are about wrestling in Avery County and how much they appreciate those who have helped build the tradition."
When action resumed, Avery trailed 17-15 in team points on the scoreboard, setting the stage for an exciting finish. AHS dropped its first two bouts at 160 and 170 pounds, respectively, but Trevor Pickens earned a forfeit win at 182 pounds to narrow the lead. Ryan Sheppard earned a narrow 4-3 win against Madison's Jacob Hutchins to close the gap to 29-24 in favor of the Patriots.
The match swung on the final two contested bouts of the evening. Scott Wiseman wrestled a back-and-forth bout at 220 pounds against Madison's Austin Ellenburg. Both wrestlers worked pinning combinations throughout the three periods, but Wiseman came out on top when he earned a pin with only six seconds remaining in the match to give the Big Red a 30-29 advantage.
Blake Johnson sealed the win for the Vikings when he dominated MHS's Ray Stines, pinning him in 13 seconds to secure a 36-35 Vikings victory.
"Tonight was the first time that I saw real emotion out of our kids," Calloway explained. "Even when we came out and dropped a couple of matches after intermission, I honestly think seeing those kids fight as hard as they did served to kickstart us. If you didn't get excited watching Scott Wiseman wrestle, then you don't have a pulse or a dang heartbeat. That was a huge match for him, and Blake followed with the pin. Tonight was a huge step in returning to the tradition that is Avery wrestling."
AHS hosted Mountain Heritage on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and will travel to Robbinsville this weekend for the James Orr Invitational Tournament.