Featuring more than 400 wrestlers from throughout the Carolinas and Virginia, the WRAL wrestling tournament held in Raleigh is one of the toughest competitions the Fighting Scots participate in annually.
For the first time since it began, the WRAL tournament issued a program to participants and spectators upon their arrival at Athens Drive High School. And after winning the tournament’s ‘Most Outstanding Wrestler’ award last year, Scotland senior Nick Kee appeared on the program’s cover.
When the program is issued next season, another Scots’ wrestler will grace the cover: Senior 160-pounder Adrian Soto-Perez. Upon finishing the tournament with a perfect 5-0 mark and a gold medal (as did Kee), Soto-Perez received Most Outstanding Wrestler honors which Scotland coach Joel McCanna believes further solidifies what most already knew about the Scots’ senior.
“I’m sure that everybody in his weight class knows he is the man they have to beat this year to be the best in North Carolina,” McCanna said. “Adrian’s performance in the tournament definitely opened a lot of eyes, and I think he erased any remaining doubt that some people may have had.”
Out of the 39 schools that competed in the WRAL tournament, the Fighting Scots as a team finished 12th overall. In addition to Kee and Soto-Perez, Scotland junior Afiz Lateef (who competed in the 132-pound weight class) also logged an impressive showing, wrestling in a team-high six matches over the two-day span en route to finishing fifth overall in the tournament.
After finishing just outside the top-six wrestlers in the Cape Fear region last season, Lateef has largely flown under the radar in 2012-13, thus far compiling a 23-4 overall record. For McCanna, Lateef’s success has not only given his team an early indication of big things perhaps to come, but also symbolizes how overlooked Scotland as a wrestling program is in general.
“They don’t want to highlight kids from Scotland High School because we’re not from a big city, but we like it that way,” McCanna said. “He hasn’t been recognized much, but then those same people will be asking ‘where did this guy come from?’ when Afiz comes out and is a top placer at regionals or state. We never get upset when we don’t get a top ranking because we know what will happen in the end.”
After netting wins in his first four bouts, Soto-Perez found himself up against Piedmont High School senior Dylan Nelson, who capped off an 38-0 undefeated season last year with a 2-A individual state championship in the 160-pound weight class.
In the final bout of the WRAL tournament, Soto-Perez pinned Nelson at the 1:47 mark in the first period to win gold medal honors and a Most Outstanding Wrestler award for his overall body of work.
Both Soto-Perez and Kee sit at a perfect 27-0 record thus far this season.
There will be no post-holiday hangover for the Fighting Scots as 2012 draws to a close, as Scotland will travel to North Davidson High School this weekend for the ‘King of the Mat’ tournament. Very much the equal of the WRAL tournament in terms of talent, the King of the Mat event (taking place Dec. 28 and 29) will again feature 39 participating teams, this time including schools from Georgia and Pennsylvania as well.