Senior Addison Klutz and sophomore Franklin Wepner joined an elite list of state wrestling champions at Newton-Conover High School on Saturday.
The duo won their respective weight classes to become the 10th and 11th Red Devils, respectively, to win individual state wrestling championships.
“I am shocked,” Klutz said after his victory. “It doesn’t process in your mind that you are capable of beating so many people. I’ve always had a pretty decent record in wrestling, but to think you are the best in the state at that time, be the person that did everything right and put all the pieces together to come out on top is pretty amazing.”
Unsure of whether or not he wanted to wrestle or play basketball in middle school, Wepner ended up on the wrestling mat.
Now that he is a state champion, Wepner says he made the right decision.
“Only wrestling for three years and already being a state champion is amazing,” Wepner said. “It took a lot of great wrestling to get there. I faced a lot of great wrestlers in my bracket. I just came out on top.”
Ian Canrobert (third place), Tyler Benfield (fourth place) and a deep run by Eric Holbrook in consolations helped the Red Devils to a fifth-place team finish with 80 points.
The result surprised NCHS wrestling coach Eddy Clark.
“We didn’t have a very good regional weekend, so we weren’t set up going in to states,” he said. “The five guys that we took really showed up and performed. I’m proud of them.”
Wepner said becoming one of 11 N-C wrestlers to win a state title was a dream come true.
“I never thought I would be on that list,” he said. “I only dreamed of it. I never thought I even had a chance to be a state qualifier.”
Eight NCHS wrestlers have won state titles during Clark’s 14-year coaching tenure.
“There is no secret formula,” Clark said. “We work hard at it. We stay at it. I wish I had a secret formula. It’s just plain hard work. We’ve had good kids that have bought in to what we are trying to do. Sometimes when you get those two combined, a lot of good things happen.”
This was the second straight year that two Catawba County wrestlers earned individual state titles.
St. Stephens’ Ray Farnsworth and Bandys’ Jake Nelson won state titles last year.
Klutz said his title will be special to him for the rest of his life.
“For it to be my last year and go out with a bang is awesome,” Klutz said. “It will be something special to look back on in the future.”