The regional rounds of the state high school wrestling season will be held this weekend with Forbush participating in the Midwest 2A region tournament at Ashe County, and Starmount, East Wilkes and Elkin traveling to Robbinsville for the Western 1A tourney.
Twenty-two schools will converge on Ashe County High School and several Falcons have not just high hopes, but realistic expectations of qualifying for the state meet. Storm Long, Isaac McMillan and Dylan Edwards will be strong contenders to make it to Greensboro for the state finals, while Edwin Alvarenza, Caleb Price and Tyler Hailey would like to be the fourth, fifth and sixth Falcons to move on.
Long, a senior who will be wrestling at 132 pounds, finished fourth a year ago at states. McMillan, a sophomore wrestling at 152, has only one loss this season. One of the highlights of the meet would be a match between McMillan and Ashe County’s Michael Elliot. McMillan did not qualify for the state tournament a year ago.
Edwards, a senior at 195 with just three losses this season, qualified for states a year ago. Edwards, Long and McMillan will all be No. 1 seeds this weekend.
Alvarenza, a freshman wrestling at 120, “has the capability of beating everyone in this region,” Forbush coach Jeff Farmer said. “He can do some great things. He’s very strong and very young.”
Farmer pointed out that “many” of Alvarenza’s losses came early in the season.
“I look at this as a team,” Farmer said. “I hope we represent well. Forbush has been down. To take three or four to state would be awesome.”
Price, fifth-ranked at 106 pounds, and Hailey, eighth-ranked at 138 pounds, will be in the hunt as well. “One little upset,” Farmer said, “and they’ll be on their way.”
Starmount coach David Oliver knows all about upsets. He looked on last year as Garrett Stokes, then a sophomore, entered the Western 1A regional as the 13th seed. Stokes went on to defeat the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds en route to a second-place finish.
Stokes, with a 25-4 record in the 195-pound class, will be Starmount’s only wrestler who qualified for states a year ago. Stokes, and Ian Fennell, will come in as Mountain Valley Athletic Conference champions.
Fennell, a senior with a record of 26-10 wrestling at 182, won all three of his conference tournament matches by two points or less to earn his championship.
Dalton Oliver, a sophomore with a record of 28-8 at 170, earned runner-up honors at conference. Wrestling behind Michael Wood a year ago, Oliver will be appearing in his first regional tournament.
Jack McCormick is another sophomore who will be looking for a slot at states. McCormick, wrestling at 106 pounds with a record of 31-10, took third in the conference. McCormick “has turned it around” after getting his feet wet in his first year of competitive wrestling in 2012-13, Coach Oliver said.
Austin Bowman, a junior with a record of 27-7 at 145, took fourth at conference. Bowman, a .500 wrestler a year ago, is another of the wrestlers who have “turned it around” this season, according to Coach Oliver.
While the seeds will not be set until today, Stokes, Fennell, Oliver, McCormick and Bowman will all be one of the top six seeds in their weight classes.
“It’s individual now,” Coach Oliver said. “You just got to prepare them mentally. The rest is up to them.”
Starmount, East Wilkes and Elkin will not only contend with a four-hour-plus drive Friday, they also may have to contend with severe weather that may rock western North Carolina. Oliver said there has been a tentative contingency plan set up, including one that has the entire tournament taking place Saturday.
The top four in each weight class at the regional meets will move on to the state meet.
The state championships for all classes will be held Feb. 20-22 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513.