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Junior Aaron Bancroft claimed his third 3-A Big East Conference wrestling championship as he was joined by five of his Fike teammates as the Golden Demons dominated the conference individual championships for a third year in a row.
Bancroft, the 170-pound victor, celebrated conference titles with junior Jahmez Settles at 106 pounds, junior Garrett Weaver (132), sophomore Vincent Page (145), senior Joseph Speight (182) and sophomore Jayleen Bullock (195). This was the second conference crown in a row for Settles, who improved to 20-2, and Speight (43-4).
“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for not only blessing us with good wrestlers but also great parents,” Fike head coach Brad Watson said. “Our parents play a big ‘-behind-the-scenes role that credits to our success as a team.
“A lot of times as the head coach I tend to get a lot of credit for our success, but I am super gracious of the foundation late Coach Mike Wickham left us with and also (assistant) Coach (George) Bancroft for being a huge asset to our team. I couldn’t do it without them both.”
After receiving a first-round bye at Saturday’s tournament at Southern Nash High, Bancroft pinned the Firebirds’ Jackson Wall in the 170-pound semifinals and then claimed the title when finals opponent, Ari Barnes of Northern Nash, exited with an injury. Bancroft is now 44-1 on the season with 19 pins.
Settles posted a 16-0 technical foul triumph against Franklinton’s Russell Dennison, then pinned Jose Rodriguez of Southern Nash in 3 minutes, 46 seconds in the 106-pound final.
Weaver notched his first conference title by pinning Franklinton’s Bennett Hunt in 3:28 of the 132-pound final. It was Weaver’s only match as just three wrestlers were in the division.
Page earned a 12-4 major decision over Southern Nash’s Noah Fulghum in the 145-pound semis before clipping Franklinton’s William Germann 3-2 in the final.
Speight, the 170-pound Big East champion last year, pinned Rocky Mount’s Joeventay Dickens in 3:48 in the semis before stopping Hunt’s Chris Silva with a 16-1 technical fall in the final.
Bullock collected pins of Markvs Battle of Rocky Mount (4:19) and Emmanuel Smoot of Hunt (5:38) to seize the 195-pound crown.
Three other Demons finished second with Patrick McCullen (138), Zametrie Bagley (220), and senior heavyweight Saulo Rodriguez falling just short in their respective finals. Watson praised the effort of McCullen and Bagley, both sophomores, to reach the finals. Noah Gullet (152) and Elvin Rodriguez (160) each placed third for Fike, helping the Demons to 210.5 points, well ahead of runner-up Franklinton with 170. Southern Nash was third with 126.5, followed by Northern Nash (98), Hunt (70.5) and Rocky Mount (66.5).
“To have nine out of our 12 guys in the finals I consider that to be a success within itself,” Watson said. “To come away with six champions, three runners-up and two third-place finishes is just an added bonus.
“I love the atmosphere and attitude of our team. We wrestle hard and have fun, too. As head coach, I try to emulate respect and good character as our top priority; winning comes second.”
Luke Coble and Daniel Medina each claimed championships for the Firebirds. Coble pulled out an 8-6 decision over Franklinton’s Benjamin Hornyak in the 160-pound final after pinning Fike’s Elvin Rodriguez in 5:35 in the semis. Medina only needed a 13-5 major decision over Northern Nash’s Garret Williamson to seize the 120-pound title.
The Firebirds also got Jose Rodriguez’s runner-up finish at 106 pounds.
Hunt was led by runner-up finishes by Silva and Smoot.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional tournament is set for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8-9, at Cleveland High.