MOCKSVILLE —The West Forsyth dual-team wrestling team has gone through a wave of emotions since winning its second straight NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship last year at Wilmington Laney.
The Titans will have a chance at a third championship on Saturday after they defeated Northwest Guilford 39-27 in the NCHSAA Class 4-A Western Regional final at War Eagles Gymnasium at Davie County.
West Forsyth (27-9) will wrestle Cary (20-0), which defeated Purnell Swett, for the state championship at 3 p.m. Saturday at The Fieldhouse at Greensboro Coliseum.
West Forsyth also stormed back after being down 20 points to Davie County in the regional semifinal before it won 32-30. Northwest Guilford (30-3) defeated Lake Norman 37-31 in the other semifinal at Davie.
“It’s been a very tough year for wrestling in our area in general,” Titans’ first-year coach Jason Hooker said.
Maurice Atwood resigned after last season, later taking the head-coaching position at Glenn. Atwood was removed from his coaching duties at Glenn in November. Meanwhile, Hooker, who was a volunteer assistant coach last year with Buddy Lowery at Davie, was named head coach at West Forsyth in April.
“Our kids went through a lot of adversity,” Hooker said. “They fought through and they’ve persevered, and they’ve done the right things.”
Andres Perez clinched the berth for the state championship at 145 pounds in the Northwest Guilford match, giving the Titans an insurmountable 39-9 lead. Hooker elected to forfeit the final three matches.
“It’s been really tough,” Perez said. “More internal problems than external problems with guys quitting on the team, too. And they just didn’t really believe in us. It just feels good.”
Perez, who is wrestling his second varsity season, knew he had a chance to clinch the win after Eli Muckelvene had a pin in the previous match at 138 pounds. Perez did get the pin, and the rest of the Titans started celebrating on the bench.
“It felt great to be a part of this team again, and just do what everybody said we couldn’t do with all the stuff that’s happened this season with our new coaches and stuff like that,” Perez said. “It felt good to finally prove all those people wrong.”
The loss was a tough pill to swallow for Coach Ron Bare of Northwest Guilford.
“We didn’t get things we wanted,” Bare said. “We forced some issues that we should’ve have forced. We made it through this week pinning a lot of guys, and they didn’t let that happen.”
Ethan Wright won with a 3-1 decision in overtime at 132 for the Titans to take a 27-9 lead. Muckelvene wrestled next and picked up another pin at 138 pounds to push the lead to 33-9.
“My thoughts were that I need to get my head right for the next match, for this Saturday,” Muckelvene said. “And I’ve got help my teammates and cheer for them so they can get the win.”
West Forsyth wouldn’t have had the opportunity to wrestle for a state championship if it hadn’t clawed back to knock off Central Piedmont 4-A rival Davie County.
Getting to the regional final appeared out of reach after trailing Davie County 30-10 in the regional semifinal. However, Muckelvene, Perez and Preston Broadus all had pins to trim the Davie lead to 30-28 with one match left.
Starting at 170 pounds, the War Eagles won the first four matches and six of the first eight to take a commanding 26-7 lead, and extended it to 30-10.
“They were just better than us right through the gut right there,” Lowery said. “It came down to the coin toss because they were able to move the (Patrick) Harding to heavyweight where he’s a 220. We beat him last week. It’s one of them things.”
Needing at least a decision to get the win for the Titans, Tyler O’Neal had a 9-1 major decision to defeat Logan Williams.
“Coming down to the last four matches, the coaches huddled us up and said, ‘You know what, we need at least three pins, one major,’ And we delivered.”
O’Neal said it was important for him to get the win.
“That’s part of being a captain and part of being an upperclassman on the team is you’ve got to set that example for the other guys,” O’Neal said. “It’s not over til it’s over. You wrestle every second.”