HOLLY SPRINGS — Over the past four years, Holly Springs had made strides toward knocking off Cary for conference and county supremacy only to come up just short.
But on Wednesday, the Golden Hawks attained their goal.
For the first time in school history, Holly Springs defeated Cary 31-30. It’s only the third time since 1990 that Cary has lost a conference match, and it puts Holly Springs in the driver’s seat for the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title.
“It’s good to get that monkey off our back. I feel like us and them have been neck-and-neck the last several years,” Holly Springs coach Brandon Inge said.
Last year, the Golden Hawks lost 33-31 in a match that came down to the final bout, but took some pride in stopping Cary’s decades-long reigns in the conference and regional individual tournaments.
Holly Springs lost 30-27 to Cary in 2011 and 42-36 in 2010.
“I think the last three years we saw that green and didn’t know how good we were, or maybe even surprised ourselves with how close we were,” Inge said. “I think this validates a lot of things we’ve been working on for years. This wasn’t just a one-night thing; we’ve been working on this for years.”
The Hawks (18-1, 4-0), ranked fourth in The News & Observer rankings, last won a conference title in 2009 as a member of the Greater Neuse River Conference. They won’t face another team in the SWAC this year that is ranked as high as No. 1 Cary (6-1, 3-1).
With the match starting in the heavier weights, an early Golden Hawks lead seemed inevitable, as that’s where their strength is.
The first bout featured two 100-match winners, with Cary’s Mark Mulligan taking a 11-6 win against Daniel Richardson in the 160-pound class.
An upset 8-5 win by Cary’s Alex Zuniga caught Holly Springs and 182-pounder Austin Galati off-guard. With the match tied 5 with 50 seconds left, Galati let Zuniga up with hopes of scoring a final takedown.
But pins from Holly Springs’ Travian Cooke (170 pounds), Josh Richardson (195) and Shane Newman (220), added to a 9-0 win by heavyweight C.J. Toogood, had the Hawks up 22-6.
Then the match turned to the lower weights, starting with a tech fall by Cary’s Ian Anderson (106), a major decision by Nick Tarvin (113).
Cary forfeited the 120-pound class to Holly Springs’ undefeated Aaron Redus, and the Hakws led 28-15.
In one of the “toss-up” matches going into the night, Holly Springs’ Joseph Meyers (126) defeated Luke Fryar 4-0.
“I just went in there and did my best,” said Meyers, a senior.
Parker Ragsdale (132) was up next for Cary, and was met with a few boos – he transferred from Holly Springs this past year. The crowd roared when Ragsdale was held to a 18-3 tech fall instead of pinning Sidney Dorsainvil. The one point wound up being huge.
“(Inge) had faith in me. He knew I could do it, so I couldn’t let him down,” Dorsainvil said.
That set up Cam Devers (138) against Kollin Wade, and the Hawks needed to win to clinch the match. Devers was up 3-1 with seconds left in the match when Wade escaped and got a takedown to help force overtime at 4-all.
Wade won 6-4 to keep Cary alive.
But Holly Springs’ Nick Connochie stayed off his back against Cary’s Will Clark (145), and also prevented a tech fall by one point, losing 20-6. Cary needed a pin or tech fall in its last bout from Ke Wang, but his 6-4 win against John Cox (152) was just short.
Cary won eight of the 14 weight classes, but Holly Springs had the edge in bonus points.
“We had to make sure everyone was back so we didn’t storm the mat and lose team points,” Meyers said. “It was a lot of fun though. We went crazy.”
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