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Raider resurgence
North reclaims county crown
North Forsyth’s Chris Ray prepares to pin South Forsyth’s Hugh Stephens in the 145-pound weight class of the Forsyth County Championships on Wednesday at West Forsyth High. - photo by Jared Putnam

A certain football team from Pittsburgh seeks their sixth title this weekend. On Wednesday, a certain wrestling squad from Coal Mountain beat them to the punch.

The county duals trophy is back in North Forsyth’s hands, after the Raiders pinned down a six-pack of county championships in this decade.

With all four county programs convening at West Forsyth, the Raiders took down Forsyth Central 57-21, then outgunned South Forsyth 46-26.

That set up North vs. the host Wolverines in the final session of the round-robin. West was also undefeated at that point, having beaten South 46-30 and knocked off Central 54-18.

Heading into the final round of the match at 135 pounds, North’s lead was just six points, close enough for West to tie with a pin and send the result into tiebreaker criteria. In the end, North’s Chris O’Connor earned the pin with just four-tenths of a second remaining in round two, clinching the 42-30 win and the title.

Wolverines’ coach Dennis Stromie said North deserved to finish on top this year.

“It was 36-30 [in favor of] North going into the last match ... and we had a chance to tie it but didn’t. It was a great job by North. They are very well coached. They are definitely the best team in our county this year,” Stromie said.

North coach Travis Jarrard said his team’s position going into the final match was a favorable one, needing only to avoid a pin for the victory.

“We were pretty confident going into that match. Chris is one of our best wrestlers ... We weren’t thinking that Chris couldn’t lose, we just didn’t think that we would give up a pin,” Jarrard said.

“On paper, we were the favorite, so it’s kind of a relief to accomplish it. It really is a relief. The kids have really been impressive all year. It’s not just one event, even though [this is] one of the biggest events they can wrestle in.”

North entered the county meet coming off a victory in a 16-team duals event at Blessed Trinity last weekend. Jarrard said his team has responded impressively after the disappointment of not qualifying for the state duals in Class AAAAA.

“We’ve got a pretty tough dual meet team this year, and it comes from teamwork. The kids have really kind of responded to the challenge of banding together and winning as a team ... Wrestling’s always thought of as an individual sport, but there’s really a team element to it.”

The win marks a return to form for the Raiders, who strung together five straight county duals titles between 2001 and 2005, all of them under Jarrard’s leadership.

South came third on the day, beating Central 51-22 in the final session of the tournament.

On the individual front, North unsurprisingly led the way, with seven Raiders winning all three of their matches. Brian Kennedy and Zach Wilson pinned all three opponents, Alex Lanier earned two pins and one technical fall, Dylan Cross and Ryan Cross each scored two pins and a win by decision, while Tristan Bourque and O’Connor both finished with a pin, a major decision and a decision on the day.

Five Wolverines swept their results on the day, with Evan Burchette and Robbie Kudela scoring three pins each. Dane Magnussen and Tyler Everton both earned two pins and a decision. Ross Anderskow was also unbeaten, with two wins and a forfeit.

For Central, David Esbeck and Marco Van der Want held their own. Esbeck recorded two decisions and was awarded a medical forfeit against South Forsyth, while Van der Want had a pin and two decisions.

South’s Joe Pittman didn’t lose a match, getting two wins by pin and one by forfeit. T.J. Mrozik took the mat twice for the War Eagles, winning both times.