Black Bears dominate conference wrestling tournament

Jan. 29—Pisgah dominated the Mountain 7 Conference Wrestling Tournament last Monday, winning the boys' dual team and tournament team titles as well as crowning six boys' champions and four girls' champions.

The conference title is the team's 14th championship out of the past 17 years.

Pisgah crowned six individual weight-class champions: Levi Curtis (106 pounds), Kail Burnette (113), Kane Bryson (120), Jason McClelland (144), Xander Hill (157) and Landon Pope (175).

"I was thrilled for them. A conference title is a conference title. The kids get excited about that stuff. I know we say it's an expectation, but from an individual standpoint, it's still a big deal. It's awesome for them to achieve that," Pisgah head coach Ryan Gibson said.

Winning was an expectation for some Black Bears: Hill won his fourth straight conference title, and Bryson won his third straight. Some, however, had never won a conference title before — McClelland, Curtis and Burnette.

Seven other Black Bears placed in the top five: Jacob Cruz-Reyes (126 pounds; 2nd place), Turner Robb (132; 2nd), J.P. Chapman (138; 3rd), Cameron King (150; 2nd), Hunter Nelson (190; 4th), Tytus Bridges (215; 2nd) and Eli Frizzell (Heavyweight; 2nd).

"We had 11 out of 14 wrestlers in the finals, which was pretty awesome," Gibson said. "Some of the guys that lost matches in the finals had lost to some of those kids early on, but they closed the gap, which is good. Closing gaps means we're making improvements and getting better."

Gibson said momentum is huge as the guys look ahead to regionals on Feb. 9-10 at Pisgah.

"You've got to get on a roll and wrestle your best at the end of the season. You don't want to stagnate, that's the biggest thing. If you're stagnating, you're not improving. If you're not improving, our region is so tough, it's hard to get through our regional to get to the state tournament," he said.

Gibson said the West regional is tougher than any other region.

"There are so many good kids in the West that it's hard to place in our region. So you want that momentum pushing you forward and to be wrestling the best you can wrestle. That's what you need to do. I think we're on track for that," he said.

Girls team finishes third

The girls' team, wrestling in its first true conference environment after being officially sanctioned by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association last year, finished third behind North Henderson and Smoky Mountain.

"Some of the girls wrestled as well as I've seen them wrestle all year. That's what you want to be doing this time of the season. I was thrilled," Gibson said.

Weight-class champions included Treyleigh Miller (114), Emahni Hollis (138), Kayla Figgins (145) and Paloma Ramirez (165).

Gibson said they expected big results from Miller, Figgins and Ramirez but that Hollis' win was a surprise.

"She was in a pretty tough spot. It was cool to see her wrestle really well. Winning a conference title was great for her confidence," he said.

Ramirez was also named Mountain 7 Girls Wrestler of the Year.

"It's for the hard work that she's put in, especially over two years and never having stepped on a wrestling mat before. For her to be where she's at and for those coaches to recognize that was awesome. It says a lot about what they think about her and what she's accomplished," Gibson said.

Two other girls placed in the top five: Aleah Stafford (100; 4th) and Aiyana Bryant (107; 4th).

Gibson said the experience was good for the girls' team, considering the majority are only freshmen.

"Now they know what the expectation is. Now they know you've got to work hard in the offseason to make huge gains and strides. That was big for them to get to see that," he said.

The girls' regional is this Saturday, Feb. 3, at North Henderson.