While the varsity wrestling Fighting Scots have had much success over the first leg of the 2012-13 schedule (including conference wins over Purnell Swett and Hoke), one opponent has been circled on their calendar since the start of the season.
On Wednesday night, Scotland finally got their chance to clash with Pinecrest, one of North Carolina’s strongest squads who have also become the measuring stick in the Southeastern 4-A Conference.
A Scotland win would have all but sealed a conference title and made the statewide competition to come immediately take notice. But though they kept things interesting throughout, the Scots ultimately performed before their own lofty expectations and fell to the Patriots by a score of 48-32.
“We had the chance to be conference champions and it just didn’t work out for us,” said Scotland coach Joel McCanna. The Scots finished second in the conference behind Pinecrest last season, while the Patriots would eventually secure a 4-A state championship. Scotland as a team finished seventh in the state at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.
“We should have won that match, and after that loss we’re stuck in our current position. This team is in the same spot it was a month ago after the WRAL and King of the Mat tournaments,” he said.
Scotland would initially take the lead over the Patriots after earning first-period pins in two of their first three matches. These came courtesy of 120-pound freshman Zitemus Henderson and sophomore 106-pounder Joey Dinkins, the latter of which improved his record to 25-6 on the season. A Pinecrest forfeit at 126-pounds and a third-period pin by returning senior Bobby Diggs (who wrestled at 132-pounds after regaining his wrestling eligibility for the spring semester) further added to Scotland’s cushion over the Patriots.
But then the Scots would suffer three consecutive losses at the 138, 145 and 152 weight classes, all by way of pin. In fact, every single match Scotland surrendered Wednesday came via pin, which combined with three forfeits proved critical in what turned out to be a frustrating evening.
“If you go to your back, you should start panicking because we simply can’t afford to give up pins,” McCanna said. “Pinecrest told their kids the same thing I told mine, which is to earn pins and not get pinned. Their guys did that, and we simply didn’t. At this stage of the game there is no time to make mistakes.”
Scotland senior powerhouses Adrian Soto-Perez (160) and Nick Kee (170) each earned victories against Pinecrest. Soto-Perez earned an 8-4 decision to move to 46-1 on the year, while Kee earned a second period 15-0 technical fall to remain unbeaten (47-0).
But after their bouts, Scotland ended the night with three forfeits and another loss via pin (192) to allow Pinecrest to once again establish conference supremacy.
“After the match I asked myself if we plateaued as a team, and I hope we haven’t,” McCanna said. “We can either go past this point or fall off. And if we don’t get better, some of our wrestlers won’t do as well as they hoped this year.”
Another test for the Scots came Jan. 19 when nine teams made the journey to Scotland High School for the “Scotland Scramble.” Two of those teams, Parkland (out of Winston-Salem) and West Forsyth (out of Clemmons) High Schools, are among the top programs in the state, with Parkland being the current owner of the national record for most dual-team wins.
The Scots would go 3-2 in their home-hosted tournament, including wins over Northern Durham, Cape Fear and Cardinal Gibbons High Schools. Both Soto-Perez and Kee went undefeated, while Afiz Lateef narrowly lost to Parkland’s Jeremy Ward, the top-ranked 132-pounder in the state. And though she sat out against Pinecrest Wednesday night due to illness, Scotland junior Jessi Kee also logged an impressive performance at the Scotland Scramble, as the 138-pounder didn’t a yield a single pin. Jessi Kee currently sits at 23-12 on the season.
Barring weather, the Scots will next travel to Pine Forest High School Saturday Jan. 26 for the “Feud in the Forest” tournament.