ST. PAULS — The Scotland wrestling team has experienced its fair share of trials and tribulations this season.
Several grapplers that were expected to star for the team, including 4A state qualifier Zitemus Henderson, were absent during the fall semester due to “off the mat” issues, according to head coach Rangel Moore.
Depth was supposed to be an asset for the Scots this season, but a few defections mid-season, coupled with the almost half-dozen wrestlers who were missing in action, has forced Moore to start freshmen or sophomores who have very little mat experience.
But Scotland’s fortunes appear to finally be on the upswing as three Scots — Henderson, Dakota McLean and Willis Benoit — earned first place in their respective brackets over the weekend at the Bulldog Brawl tournament at St. Pauls High School.
Henderson (120 pounds) and Benoit (145 pounds) made the most of their return to the team while McLean continued his superb year with a title in the 138-pound bracket.
The trip helped the Scots finished eighth in the 12-team field with 85 points. North Central (S.C.) won the team championship with 161 points, and Grays Creek finished second with 147.5 points. Fellow Southeastern Conference school Purnell Swett rounded out the top three with 137 points.
Henderson opened his season with a pin of Hoke’s Donye Josey in the quarterfinal match. He then made short work of Purnell Swett’s Will Deese in the semifinals, winning by pinfall at the 1:11-mark to advance to the 120-pound championship bout. Henderson completed his triumphant return with another pin, this one coming against Mason Gomez of North Central. Gomez, who entered the match with a perfect 34-0 record, was pinned by Henderson in less than two minutes.
McLean, who finished fourth at the prestigious Boneyard Bash tournament on Jan. 9, now wields a 20-3 record after rolling to the 138-pound crown. In the quarterfinal round, McLean faced off against Hunt’s Jay Johnson — Johnson had only suffered one loss all year entering the bout, but McLean handed him a 13-7 decision defeat. In the semis, McLean pinned Grays Creek’s Andrew Grierson to advance to the championship match. McLean cruised to another victory by pinfall when he defeated North Central’s Clay Worley to capture the title.
Benoit opened his campaign with three straight wins, first pinning Westover’s Adrian Rangel one minute into their bout. In the semifinals, Benoit battled Seventy-First’s Angelo Akogo and scored a pinfall win in the second period. Benoit punctuated his return to the mat with his third consecutive pin, downing Hunt’s Blake Horner 45 seconds into their 145-pound championship tilt.
At 126 pounds, Jacob Young posted a 2-2 record. He pinned Hoke’s Trequan Hall in the first round, then lost by a 4-2 decision to Grays Creek’s Andrew Esterly. In the consolation bracket, Young pinned Apex Friendship’s Joseph Chevalier before falling by a 5-0 decision to Purnell Swett’s Rommie McNeil.
Johnaton Carmichael scored one win in the 285-pound bracket. The Scot was pinned by Hunt’s Latrell Ruffin in the first round, but rebounded to defeat Seventy-First’s Keith Hines by a 7-4 decision in the consolation bracket. Carmichael was eliminated in the following match after he was pinned by St. Pauls’ Adai Humphrey.
Scotland returns to the mat Wednesday when it travels to Lumberton to take on the Pirates at 6 p.m.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.