After the Area 5-7A wrestling duals on Saturday, North Forsyth head wrestling coach Travis Jarrard complimented his team on pushing through adversity, whether that be injury or the sometimes brutal task of dropping weight.
But Jarrard also recognized that Saturday was the best, most complete version of the Raiders that he'd had this year. Anything less than a defense of the team's area title would be a disappointment.
"This is the most whole we've been all season," Jarrard said.
North got the title, and it did so handily in the finals match against West Forsyth, winning most of the close matchups and recording pins in the others to beat the Wolverines 55-21 and advance to the state duals tournament. West, which finished second, also advanced to the state tourney.
North had a first round bye and met Forsyth Central in the second round, where the Raiders defeated the Bulldogs 63-12. West reached the finals by beating South Forsyth 42-33.
The finals match moved quickly, with seven of the matchups ending in first-period falls. The Wolverines got the first of those, with Cam Westray pinning Zach Davis in the 113-pound match, but North's Paul Watkins recorded a pin just 45 seconds into his 120-pound match against Cole Ewing.
The presence of Watkins, a high school All-American and last year's County Wrestler of the Year, was undeniably a boost for the Raiders, as he got pins in both of his matches on Saturday. The junior was the recipient of much of the adversity affecting the team: He had dropped two weight classes from the 138 pounds at which he began the season, and Watkins hadn't wrestled competitively since early December, when he broke his jaw after he slammed it into an opponents' hip during the Lake Norman Duals tournament in North Carolina.
Neither the time off nor the effects of Watkins' cut were visible on Saturday, though.
"I felt good after we weighed in," Watkins said. "I got hydrated, and I'm just glad I could make weight for the team, spread out the lineup."
The Raiders got early wins in competitive matches, with Walid Abdullahi beating Adam Galvan by 7-2 decision at 132 pounds, Cole Tenety winning a 14-6 major decision over Troy Rickert at 138 pounds, and Andrew Sexton pinning Ibraim Eminov with 14 seconds left in the second period at 152 pounds.
The team win was in hand by the time Will Chavarria pinned Dylan Fairchild in the 285-pound matchup, but that victory produced some of the most excitement of the day for North, as Fairchild had pinned Chavarria in a in a matchup the week before.
The state duals are set for Jan. 11-13 in Macon. Jarrard was hesitant to project his team's performance in that tournament, saying it would mainly come down to individual pairings, but Saturday couldn't have been much cause for concern: The Raiders lost just three individual matches all day, a fact Jarrard relayed to the team after the trophy ceremony.
"That's not too bad," he said.