Thus far this season, the Scotland varsity wrestlers projected to have standout campaigns have done exactly that, headlined by Nick Kee and Adrian Soto-Perez who have once again stormed their way to the top of the state rankings.
But in their first conference match of the season against Purnell Swett, it was the stout performance of several Fighting Scots that showcased a team solidifying itself at just the right time. Scotland notched five pins on the night to secure a 40-27 victory over the Rams that was arguably their most well-balanced outing of the young season.
“In our first conference match, it was great seeing some of our younger guys go out there and get victories,” said Kee, who pinned Purnell Swett 182-pounder Josh Singletary 36 seconds into the first period to remain unbeaten on the year. “You can see our team has the drive to get better and win more matches, and we really came together and finished strong tonight.”
“I tell these guys every day that you’re only as good as your practice partner,” said Scotland coach Nicky Kee after the win. “Tonight you saw kids that weren’t winning at the start of the season show a lot of improvement, and I think it’s a result of our practices becoming much more unified. Our kids don’t want to just do well at practice, they want to pin each other.”
Beginning the night for the Fighting Scots was Scotland 138-pound junior Jessi Kee, who started the contest in impressive fashion by pinning opponent Justin Locklear with just under 30 seconds remaining in the first period.
The younger of the two Kee siblings, Jessi found herself challenged by top-tier competition over the holiday break in both the WRAL and King of the Mat wrestling tournaments, which featured wrestlers from all over the east coast. But this past weekend at the ‘Battle at the Beach’ tournament held at Topsail High School, Kee finished third overall in her weight class and continued that momentum into her decisive first-period victory Wednesday night.
With her win, Kee moves to an 18-7 record on the season.
After a Scotland forfeit in the 145-pound weight class tied the match at six a piece, the Rams scored a pin of their own to take an early lead.
It wouldn’t last long, however, as Soto-Perez and Kee were next on the card, and each closed their respective bouts out quickly (Soto-Perez pinned fellow 160-pounder Shand Strickland 45 seconds in the first period) to reclaim the lead over the Rams.
Purnell Swett countered at the 182 and 195-pound weight classes by securing pins in each contest (both in the first period) to open a 24-18 lead over the Scots in what was a furiously-paced opening set of matches for both teams.
The first match to go the distance Wednesday night was between Scotland 220-pounder Pernell Strickland and Purnell Swett heavyweight Kellyn Smith, which saw Strickland secure the narrow 5-4 decision victory and help the Scots climb to within three points of the Rams.
Scotland would reclaim the lead in the very next contest, as 106-pound freshman Joey Dinkins earned a 13-5 major decision over Nakayla Oxedine to make the score 25-24 in the Scots’ favor.
The Fighting Scots would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the match
Freshman 113-pounder Josiah Williams (who coach Kee says is one of the “most improved” wrestlers on the year) earned a pin over Purnell Swett opponent Steve Ballard with just 10 seconds remaining in the first period to keep the Scots’ winning streak going. The last points of the night for Purnell Swett came on a major decision victory that helped the Rams cut Scotland’s lead to four, but then Deshawn Williams (older brother of Josiah) effectively shut the door on a possible comeback by pinning Dean Oxedine at the 1:00 mark in the third period.
The pin gave Scotland a 37-27 lead with just one match remaining, in which Willis Benoit earned a decision over Cody Hinojosa in the 132-pound weight class to seal the victory for the Scots.
“I think this was a very good win for us, because we all pulled through and did what we’re supposed to do out there,” said Jessi Kee after the match. “I think we have a good shot of finishing near the top of our conference.”
Scotland will next travel to Jack Britt this weekend for the two-day ‘Boneyard Bash’ tournament taking place Jan. 11 and 12.