Pisgah wrestling sends four to state tournament

Feb. 14—Regionals have come and gone in the wrestling season, and with it came a pair of regional champs for Pisgah and four boys state qualifiers.

Junior Kane Bryson (120) and sophomore Landon Pope (175) each grabbed a regional title, while sophomore Kail Burnette (113) finished third and senior Xander Hill (157) finished second to book their tickets to the state championships.

"The greedy coach in you always wants to get more. We were hoping we'd get more, but we were pleased with the effort," Pisgah wrestling coach Ryan Gibson said. "Our region is so hard. It's so difficult to get through."

For Bryson, it was his third regional title in as many years.

"That's unbelievable," Gibson said. "He's wrestling really tough right now. He's got his mind made up. He's on a mission."

For Pope, it was a different road to the regional title. Last season, he finished third at regionals. The then-freshman was competing at the 182-pound weight class. This year, he dropped down to 175.

At regionals, Pope was seeded atop the 175-pound bracket with a 32-5 record. He rode that momentum to two pins and two decisions to take the regional crown.

Hill came in with a 44-1 record and the top seed in the region. He is also the reigning state runner-up at 152 pounds.

"I'm proud of Xander, "Gibson said. "He's been a state qualifier every year that he's wrestled."

Burnette is also a repeat visitor to the state tournament, making it for the second year in a row.

This means that all four Pisgah wrestlers have state experience under their belts before heading to this year's tournament. Gibson says this provides his guys with an edge because they know what to expect.

"They're going down there with experience," he said. "They all have high expectations of themselves with some pretty big goals in mind as they go down there."

There were also a few wrestlers that were one step away. Sophomore Jacob Cruz went down via a 5-2 decision in the 126-pound consolation semifinals, while junior Eli Frizzell lost via fall in the 285-pound semifinals and consolation semifinals.

A win in any of those three matches would have punched another ticket to state, but that is how wrestling goes sometimes.

"Wrestling teaches kids so much," Gibson said. "It teaches discipline. It teaches hard work. You see kids like him who put so much into the offseason. It is one of the most heart-wrenching things as a coach to see a kid you know work hard not quite get where he wanted to be."

The team also placed second as a unit at the regional tournament. Gibson said doing so with just four qualifiers is remarkable, especially considering Kings Mountain, who finished as the region champions, sent six guys to state.

Multiple teams below Pisgah also sent more wrestlers to state, including fourth place North Lincoln, who are also sending six wrestlers to state.

"It was very exciting and pretty satisfying to see. To trophy at the regional tournament as a team is a big deal," Gibson said. "It just shows you how well we wrestled as a group."

The Bears were also playing in friendly confines, with the regional tournament taking place in their home gym. He said the lack of travel and the big crowd cheering on the Bears helped his guys out.

"Home-field advantage and being able to wrestle at your place without having to stay the night at a hotel, it makes a huge difference when you're comfortable where you're at," Gibson said.