SMITHFIELD — Momentum is a valued commodity in any sport, because when one team gains possession of it, it is hard for an opponent to seize it.
As former conference foes Garner and Smithfield-Selma got together for an early season wrestling match Monday night, the Spartans found themselves in need of stemming the tide after four consecutive Garner pins drew the Trojans to within three points heading into the final bout.
That’s when Smithfield-Selma’s Austin Young stepped up for his team in the 126-pound weight class and earned a technical fall over James Box, a state qualifier from a year ago. With the 41-33 win, the Spartans improved to 3-0 on the season.
“Momentum is huge in sports, and once a team gets that momentum, it’s hard to stop them,” Smithfield-Selma coach Kristian Stewart said. “In wrestling, however, one wrestler can be that wrench in the wheel and stop momentum.
“Austin went out for blood; he went all out for it. I couldn’t ask for a better person for it to come down to.”
After the Spartans’ Logan Cox earned a hard-fought three points in an 11-7 decision over the Trojans’ Jonathan Ruiceco, it looked like the match would be decided well before Box and Young were slated to square off against one another.
But once Garner heavyweight Amani Soumaoro pinned Smithfield-Selma’s Wilmer Rojas in the first period, it became obvious that the match would then hinge on the lighter weight divisions, an area in which the Trojans enjoyed an advantage.
“Our strength is in our lighter weights, and so the fact that we started where we did (132 pounds), I knew we were ending with our lighter weights,” first-year Garner coach Ryan Tingle said. “They came back and did a real good job. This is the third year in a row that it always comes down to the last match; it’s tight every year.”
Tanner Marshburn (106 pounds), Mason Crawford (113) and Aschalew Teka (120) all came away from their matchups with much-needed pins to extend the match to the final one of the night.
In much the same way the Trojans almost completed the comeback with four consecutive pins near the end of the night, the Spartans jumped out to a huge lead thanks to four consecutive pins early in the contest.
At 138 pounds, Tyler Talley got Smithfield-Selma on the board with a pin 30 seconds into his bout. Next, pins by Spencer Powell (145), Caleb Brown (152) and Michael Whitley (160) resulted in a 24-3 advantage for the Spartans.
“Our biggest issue tonight is we just gave up pins,” Tingle said. “If we could have just lost without giving up pins, we could have won the match, because I have guys to get the points that we need to win.
“Giving up those pins kills you, especially in high school wrestling.”
Both squads defeated Clinton earlier in the evening as the Dark Horses completed the field for the tri-meet. The Spartans had an easier go of it against Clinton, defeating the Dark Horses 53-28. Garner (1-1) needed a pin from Crawford in the match’s final bout to hold on for a 45-33 victory.
“Wrestling is a unique sport in that in a dual meet, match-ups are crucial, and they matched up well with us,” Stewart said of the Trojans. “We always enjoy wrestling Garner because it always seems to be a good, close match.”