Devil of a time: N-C tops Bandys in CVAC action

The Trojans won the battle, but the Red Devils won the war.
In a match up of top five teams in the state in 2A, Newton-Conover used an early lead to hold off Bandys for the crucial Catawba Valley Athletic Conference victory.

"It is good to wrestle somebody one times," said Newton-Conover coach Eddy Clark. "We will see them again at the conference tournament and it really would not surprise me if we see them down the road in the postseason."

The Red Devils (33-3, 4-0) quickly jumped out to a 30-0 lead over the Trojans. Austin Herbert, Tyler Benfield and Joe Platt earned pinfall victories.

Newton Conover's Rashad Kissler and Ian Canrobert won on decisions and Sam Abernathy picked up a forfeit victory.
The Trojans (20-5, 2-1) clawed back with some hard-fought victories in key match ups of top ten wrestlers in the state in different weight classes.

In an instant classic between two of the best in the state at 119 pounds, Bandys' Jesse Oliver defeated Newton-Conover's Coleman Carter in the extra period, 6-4. Oliver is ranked No. 6 and Carter is ranked No. 7 in the state rankings.

"Jesse had a good match out there," said Bandys coach Sean McIntosh. "He controlled the match and had a lot of takedowns. That kid is good on the mat. We had to have a better strategy. Jesse is coming off being sick, so I think he can pace a little more than he did tonight."

Bandys' Zack Johnson and Newton-Conover's Casey Toomey fought in a tightly contested match as well, but Johnson was able to hold on for the 2-1 and keep momentum with the Trojans.

The Trojans' Thomas Lundsford and Red Devil Eric Holbrook competed in the second top ten match up of the night. Lundsford is the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the 135-pound weight division, while Holbrook is ranked No. 4.

Lundsford picked up two quick points with a takedown in the opening period. Holbrook countered with one point in an escape to make it 2-1 after the first.

Despite being down, Holbrook came out with energy in the second and remained determined to pin Lundsford to the mat. Holbrook continued to push and looked to be close to the pin and pulling the upset.

However, Lundsford grabbed on Holbrook's head gear, which resulted in a one-point penalty. It was all tied 2-2 heading into the final period.

"Thomas just needed to push the pace a little more,” McIntosh said. “He needed to wear him down a little bit. If you push the pace and start wrestling your match, that guy is going to be on his defense. This evening, Erik had it going on and was pushing him. That threw Thomas off. It was a hard fought win."

A technical violation by Holbrook and another takedown by Lundsford, resulted in a 4-3 deficit for Holbrook. The crowd cheered "Eric" as Holbrook fought in the waning seconds of the period to fight to his feet and tie the match. The match headed to an extra period to decide the winner.

"You can't really ask for a better high school setting and a high school match than that," Clark said. "No. 1 and No. 3 in the state going into overtime. That was exciting."

Lundsford remembered his feelings heading into the extra period.

"I couldn't let him have any more points," Lundsford said. "I had to push the pace. I have to get two points for the win."

Lundsford's self pep talk would work in his favor.

In the added time, Lundsford managed to take Holbrook down, win the match and spoil the upset bid.

"It was an exciting match," McIntosh said. "Eric started to wear Thomas down a bit. Champions win. Thomas was a little upset that it wasn't the prettiest win, but he won and that is what counts."

The momentum continued going the Trojans' way, but Clark was not worried.

"We are battle tested," Clark said. "Our kids have been through this high pressure quality team duals. We know there are ebbs and flows. There is momentum and then you kind of lose it. Momentum is big. We kind of hit a little dip there."

The Red Devils managed to regain their confidence and that started with Tyler Knopp. The senior picked up the decision victory over Carvill Sage and gave his team the added fire they needed.

Following Knopps' win, Seth Ratchford picked up a victory for Bandys, but it was too little, too late.

Addison Klutz and Erik Cernuda carried Knopps' momentum and earned victories to push the Red Devils ahead to stay.

As for the tough losses for his top ten ranked wrestlers, Clark sees this match as a crucial opportunity for each of them.

"We will come back," Clark said. "Our schedule is set up that even we have losses on our record. Even our good kids have losses on their record. We will learn from those losses and come back."

The Red Devils return to the mat tomorrow against South Iredell in a make up match due to the inclement weather. The match will also be a special one, as it is Senior Night.