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This story was corrected from an earlier version to indicate that Fike High senior Saulo Rodriguez is making his second trip to the NCHSAA state tournament, not first.
CLAYTON — With his second regional title in a row, Fike High junior Aaron Bancroft earned his third straight trip to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A wrestling championships next weekend at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Like last year, Bancroft, the 160-pound champion, is one of five Golden Demons to qualify for the state tournament, but he and senior heavyweight Saulo Rodriguez are the only Golden Demons to make a repeat trip. Joining them are junior Jahmez Settles, senior Joseph Speight — both of whom finished third in their respective weight classes — and sophomore Vincent Page, who was fourth at 145 pounds.
“I feel really confident about them. I think they’re going to do big things up there,” Bancroft said of his teammates. “I wasn’t very surprised when it happened.”
As he has been all season, Bancroft was dominant in winning the 160-pound title to improve to 48-1. A few weeks ago, Fike head coach Bradley Watson, who is assisted by Bancroft’s father, George, said he told Aaron that he should set his goal to pin every opponent all the way to the state final.
“I think just getting him in that mindset that he is that good and he is expected to win a state championship and, not only that, but be dominant in doing so,” Watson said. “I don’t want to come from a prideful position when I say that I want him to think that if you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, you still make your goal.”
Bancroft, the Big East Conference champion at 170 pounds, nearly did that as he registered pins of West Brunswick’s Ryan Phelan and West Carteret’s Hiroki Cruz in the first two rounds. But he ran into a familiar foe in the semifinals, Rocky Mount senior Trevon Hatch. Bancroft had to settle for a 14-4 major decision against Hatch, whom he described as “super strong.”
Bancroft then handled another Big East foe, Franklinton’s Benjamin Hornyak by pinning him in 1 minute, 51 seconds in the final.
Now Bancroft has his sights set on becoming the first state champion in Fike history. He said he expects either he or Union Pines’ Elijah Martin will be the No. 1 seed at 160 pounds in Greensboro.
“From day 1 in my high school career I’ve always wanted to become a state champion,” Bancroft said. “I’ve worked hard all my career but I feel like I’ve worked the hardest this year.”
Speight, now 47-5, reached the 182-pound semifinals with a pin of Greenville Rose’s Sam Schmidt in the first round and a 9-1 major decision against South Johnston’s Traequan Williams in the second round. But Speight’s bid for a regional title was thwarted by a 3-1 loss to West Carteret’s Micah Dixon in the semifinals. That would be Dixon’s toughest match as he claimed a 16-2 major decision over top-seeded Bryan Aragao of North Brunswick in the championship round.
Rodriguez pinned his first two heavyweight opponents before being stopped by No. 1 seed Atila Dalmasi of New Hanover in the semifinals. Rodriguez, now 38-10, won a pair of 3-1 decisions in the consolation bracket on his way to third place.
Speight pinned Rocky Mount’s Markus Battle in the consolation semis before registering a 9-1 major decision against Triston Gee of Swansboro in the third-place match.
Settles and Page both lost semifinals matches. Settles came up short, 9-8, against eventual 106-pound champion Ben Baker of Topsail while Page fell 12-2 to eventual 145-pound winner William Willis of West Carteret. Settles rebounded with two decisions, including a 10-6 verdict over Havelock’s Cody Rutherford for third place.
“He’s really starting to peak at the right time,” Watson said of Settles. “He lost his semifinals match right there at the end. He was up the whole match and lost it in the last eight seconds.”
Page, however, suffered a 3-2 loss to Franklinton’s William Germann in the consolation final.
Fike finished fourth with 90 points behind winner West Carteret (167.5), North Brunswick (145.5) and Topsail (106). The Demons were without sophomore Jayleen Bullock, the top seed at 195 pounds and a state qualifier as a freshman, for disciplinary reasons.
C.B. Aycock was fifth with 86 points as the Golden Falcons qualified four for the state tournament, including junior Tyler Hughes, the 152-pound champion.
Joining Hughes, who claimed his second regional title, were junior Cannon Barrett (fourth at 120 pounds), sophomore Omar Tucker (fourth at 138) and sophomore Turner Bass (fourth at 195).
“We (coaches) expected Tyler to get through the regional onto state, but to get four (to states) — wow, didn’t see that,” said CBA head coach Brian Doyle. “I thought we’d get Tyler and then four or five would win a few matches — maybe another would clinch a spot — but four going, I’ll take it.”
Hughes, now 52-3, was the top seed and marched to the championship match with pins of West Brunswick’s Wade Sibley and D.H. Conley’s Walker Kassnove before posting a 17-6 major decision over North Brunswick’s Sean Panas for Hughes’ 100th career win.
“That’s a huge accomplishment to win 100 matches in just two seasons. To come back after the knee injury that cost him his sophomore season was incredible to witness,” said Doyle.
Hughes then held on to beat River Carroll of Swansboro, 4-2, in the championship match.
Doyle pointed out that Bass is the son of Aycock assistant head coach Mark Bass, who has been helping the Falcons for nearly 20 years.
“I’m personally very happy for Mark,” Doyle said, “and for him to coach and witness his son Turner clinch a spot in state (tournament) was an incredible scene.”
Southern Nash’s Johnathan Salazar also earned a spot in the state tournament with a fourth-place finish at 113 pounds.
2-A EAST REGIONAL
NEWPORT — Two wrestlers from The Wilson Times readership area earned their way to the NCHSAA 2-A championships with runner-up finishes Saturday at the 2-A East Regional meet at Croatan High.
Greene Central senior Jared Fields lost 4-1 to Southwest Onslow’s Tyler Proffitt in the 170-pound final while SouthWest Edgecombe junior Kedar Darden was pinned in 3:50 of the 182-pound championship match by Eastern Plains Conference foe Raheem Jones of North Pitt.