There wasn’t a singular scenario that West Forsyth wrestling coach Evan Goff could dedicate all his focus on.
For him and everyone else competing at the Region 5-7A duals at Forsyth Central on Saturday, nothing was certain. That became even more evident when the top two seeds — Central and Lambert — both lost. West, the No. 3 seed and the defending region duals champion, was going to defend its crown in the final, but the team had changed quite a bit in the span of a year.
But for the Wolverines, that didn’t matter, as they engaged in a down-to-the-wire matchup with No. 4 North Forsyth for the title, ultimately repeating as region champs with a 30-21 victory. After beating Lambert 36-29 in the subsequent second place matchup, the Raiders punched their ticket to join West at the state duals in Macon next week.
“We really lost five or six really good wrestlers last year,” Goff said. “The guys we replaced them with were all tough, but they started wrestling in ninth grade. (The new wrestlers) don't have near the experience as the guys we graduated, and so to be able to repeat with a fresh lineup and a lot of new wrestlers, it was a total team effort. Everybody did their job. I'm just super proud of the guys.”
West jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead in the final, but North freshman Brandon Peoples broke the streak with a decision win over West senior Cam Westray at 132. West continued to stay ahead, though.
“We lost seven matches in the dual but we only got pinned in one of them,” Goff said. “That’s what it's about in dual meets, not giving up the bonus points, finding a way to get pins where you can and staying off your back. (North was) definitely prepared.”
North showed that preparation late in the matchup. After a big win from Ethan Rickert over the Raiders’ Tate Bissell at 152 made it 18-6, North sophomore Bentley Wheeler came up with a huge pin to narrow the score to 18-12.
West’s Daba Fofana completed a dramatic comeback from down 6-2, tying his match with North’s Victor Reyes at 7-7 before securing a takedown with just a second left in the third period to take the win. Fofana’s victory put the Wolverines ahead 21-15, but North’s Dylan Lyerly beat West’s Spencer Bovenizer at 220 on a last-second escape to tie it at 21-21.
“Dylan Lyerly is on fire right now,” North wrestling coach Travis Jarrard said. “That kid's on a roll. He's only been wrestling for a little over a year now and he is getting after it, and I'm super proud of that kid.”
But despite that, West prevailed: Heavyweight Dylan Fairchild quickly put his team back ahead by six with a pin, and with a win at 106 from Noah Amick over Michael Gryder, West celebrated its second straight duals title.
“That was a matchup I was going to try to avoid if we won the coin toss, but it came down to it,” Goff said. “That kid's a tough wrestler but Amick's just come so far. He started wrestling in ninth grade and to get that win was huge.”
In the second place matchup with Lambert, North trailed 20-0 at one point but came back for the win with the help of its younger wrestlers, including Lyerly, who beat Central’s Branden Redecker earlier in the day to help North down the Bulldogs.
Central finished fourth in the tournament, falling to Lambert 42-34 in the third place matchup. South Forsyth, a team that’s been dealing with numerous injuries, fell to North in the first round.
“I knew going in that this was going to be a very emotional day, just emotionally draining,” Jarrard said. “We're so young and these kids have been working so hard that we knew we had the ability to do it.
“Across the board, everybody poured everything they had into this weekend to see the results we were going to get, and we came away with something that was better than I thought it would be, to be honest.”