Eastern Alamance’s wrestling squad made its way to Hillsborough this past weekend for the Jim King Invitational - Orange High School’s annual pre-Christmas December wrestling showcase. Out of 19 participating schools at the Invitational, EAHS placed 14th overall, with one Eagles wrestler placing third, one placing fifth, and one in sixth place.
Christopher Watson, Eastern’s lightweight wrestler, had the strongest showing of the weekend among all the Eagles grapplers, placing third in his weight class on the strength of a dominant 16-1 technical fall over Fernando Martinez of Cedar Ridge in the third place match.
Watson opened the tournament on Friday by pinning Ashton O’Neal of Southern Durham 48 seconds into the second round (2:48 into the match). He then took on Cedar Ridge’s Martinez for the first of two times over the course of the weekend. In their quarterfinal matchup, Watson picked up a pin with just 16 seconds remaining on the second period clock (3:44).
In the semifinal round, Watson faced Luke Kunath of Cardinal Gibbons. It was a tough bout for the EAHS wrestler, as he suffered an 18-3 technical fall to come up short in his bid for the Invitational victory in his weight class. The loss to Kunath set up a rematch with Southern Durham’s O’Neal, who Watson crushed with a pin just 40 seconds into the bout. Watson’s second triumph of the weekend over O’Neal propelled him to the technical fall victory over Martinez in the third place bout.
In the 170-pound weight class, Kalin Sykes had a solid weekend for EAHS, earning fifth place overall. Sykes began the Invitational with an impressive pin over Cary’s Omar Woody in the final seconds of the opening period (1:58). Sykes then did battle with Jordan’s Caleb Joines in the quarterfinal round, but suffered a 14-3 major decision setback.
Falling into the consolation bracket, Sykes went back to work, first pinning Wesley Shepard of Durham Riverside just as the third period began (4:04). He then advanced to a match with Montgomery Allgood of Northwood and earned another pin, this one 12 seconds into the second round (2:12).
With an opportunity to wrestle for third place overall in his weight class, Sykes took on Jake Polansky of Raleigh’s Leesville Road High. Sykes suffered a pin loss at the 1:40 mark of the first round against Polansky, who ultimately finished third at 170 pounds. But Sykes got one more opportunity to wrestle, taking on Ethan Kring of Raleigh Sanderson in the fifth place match. Sykes pinned Kring nearly midway through the second round (2:41), which gave him a 4-2 record over the course of the Invitational.
Eastern’s 182-pounder, Julian Rodriguez, also managed to claim multiple victories during the JKO Tournament. Rodriguez opened the tournament with a pair of impressive wins - a pin at the 1:27 mark of the first period against Nicolas Rinell of Chatham Central, and a pin of Said Abdelrahman of Cary High near the end of the third period (5:41).
The victories over Rinell and Abdelrahman moved Rodriguez into the semifinals of his weight class, but he then ran into a buzzsaw into Riverside’s Terrence Martin, who earned a 17-2 technical fall victory. Rodriguez still had a chance to wrestle his way into the third place match, but he suffered back-to-back setbacks - a 13-4 major decision loss to Isaiah McCullers of Millbrook, and a 7-3 decision loss to Mid-State Conference rival Karson Evans of Person - to place sixth overall.
At 113 pounds, Eastern’s Caden Parsons was pinned at the 1:52 mark of the first period by Orange High’s Josh Dunn, and then 32 seconds into the opening round by Landon Watts of Raleigh Millbrook in the consolation bracket.
In the 120-pound weight class, EAHS submitted Alaina Kunder, who suffered a fall at the 1 minute, 8 second mark of the first period to Max Kiel of Durham Jordan, who placed second overall in the weight class. Kunder was then pinned 47 seconds into the first round of a consolation match with Isaiah Williams of Apex High.
Brannon Maxfield, wrestling in the 126-pound weight class for the Eagles, got a win on the board by pinning Dallas Wall of Bartlett Yancey at the 1:36 mark of the first period. Maxfield was then defeated in a 16-0 technical fall by Ryan Dal Pizzol of Cardinal Gibbons, but picked up a big win over Mid-State Conference foe Patrick Anderson of Person High with a 10-6 decision in the consolation round. Maxfield’s second victory of the tournament advanced him to the consolation semifinals, but his weekend came to an end with a fall 15 seconds into the second round (2:15) against Isaac Rameriz of Durham Riverside.
At 132 pounds, Evan Bebitez took the mat for the Eagles, suffering a second round pin at the hands of Middle Creek’s Isaiah Olive (2:47), and then dropping a hard-fought loss via pin in the third round to Landen Lemaire of Person (5:38). In the 138-pound weight class, EAHS’s Genesis Chinchilla was pinned at 1:01 of the first round by Cameron Ratka of Northern Durham, and in the consolation round via a 23-second first round pin to Mason Arbogast of Apex.
Damien Beaver, wrestling at 145 pounds for the Eagles, suffered a second round pin to Tayton Alvis of Orange (2:25), but bounced back with a solid second period pin of Southern Durham’s Thompson Johnson (3:42). Beaver advanced in the consolation bracket to face Joseph Carlucci of Cardinal Gibbons, but was pinned at the 1:41 mark of the first period.
Timothy McNeely, EAHS’s 152-pound wrestler, fought hard in his opening bout against Kivonte Koonce of Durham Riverside, but was pinned in the third period (4:40). McNeely then went the distance against Northwood’s Nathan Davis, but suffered a narrow 8-5 decision loss.
Eagles 160-pounder Noah Forshee advanced to the quarterfinal round in his loaded bracket with a pin over Jordan’s Jamiya Best in the final seconds of the opening period (1:57), but then lost an 11-2 major decision to Apex’s Noah Williams, who went on to place second overall in the weight class. Forshee and Northern Durham’s Shamari Zachary double-forfeited in the consolation round.
At 190 pounds, Eastern’s Bricy Chavis-Munoz had the unfortunate distinction of drawing Holden Cypher of Millbrook in the opening round. Cypher, who went on to win the Invitational in the weight class, pinned Chavis-Munoz 15 seconds into the first round. Chavis-Munoz recovered to pick up a second round pin over Apex’s Elijah Gagne-Koudaka (3:06), but was eliminated from the consolation bracket by Chatham Central’s Gerli Amador, who won via a 16-1 technical fall.
Eastern did not enter a wrestler in the 220-pound weight class at the Jim King tournament, but did enter a heavyweight in the 285-pound class - Jaxon Lee. Lee was pinned late in the first period by Cedar Ridge’s Louis Tedder (1:49), and was eliminated from the tournament via a first round pin by Jordan’s Javion Holiday (0:47).