After being eliminated from the NCHSAA state wrestling tournament in the “blood round’’ as a freshman last season, Southwestern Randolph High School’s Jose Flores said if he would take things more seriously, a state title could be in his future.
So beginning this past summer, he took workouts and conditioning very seriously. And the result was exactly what he thought it would be.
Flores captured the NCHSAA state 2-A championship at 220 pounds Saturday at the Greensboro Coliseum, the only 2-A state champion in Randolph County.
In the 1-A state finals, perennial power Uwharrie Charter Academy claimed two individual championships as Aldo Hernandez claimed his third straight state title with a win at 138 pounds, and freshman Lorenzo Alston claimed the 145 title.
A total of seven Randolph County wrestlers advanced to the championship round with UCA’s Ethan Hines (106), Jaden Maness (195) and Grayson Roberts (170) placing second in the 1-A tournament and Trinity’s Spencer May (120) placing second in the 2-A tournament.
For Flores, it was an accomplishment that capped a year in which he went 31-2.
“This definitely feels unreal,” Flores said an hour after the sophomore recorded a 3-0 win over Colt Kluttz of Mount Pleasant for the state title. “It hasn’t set in yet. The feeling that I just won a state title. Strategy wise, I just went with the flow and whatever he gave me I would just counter it.”
Flores said he gained a lot of confidence after his thrilling 12-11 win over J’Lynn Sheff of Walkertown in the semis.
“It was when I finished the semifinal match,” Flores said of when he realized he had a chance to become state champion. “I just kept telling myself one more match, one more match. You have six minutes and you’ve been in this situation before.”
Flores opened the tournament with a 6-0 decision over Owen Grismer of West Stanly. He followed that with a 5-1 win over Grayson Fountain of Southwest Onslow, which put him into the semifinals against Sheff.
“There’s no one more deserving,” SWR wrestling coach Jacob Clapp said of Flores. “His work ethic is next to none. He came to the wrestling room every day and worked. I’m just looking forward to what he can do in the next two years.”
Flores can only equal what Hernandez has accomplished in his high school wrestling career. After winning a state title his sophomore year at Montgomery Central, he captured the next two titles while a member of the UCA team.
Hernandez had little resistance in claiming the title, winning by pin over Avery County’s Stanley Griffith in the first round, recording a 10-3 win over Rosewood’s Giovani Rivera in the semifinals and earning a technical fall win in the championship.
“He’s very talented, a Division I wrestler going to Appalachian State and he put in the time and the work,” UCA coach Chris Waddell said.
Like Hernandez, Alston rolled to the 145-pound title with a first-round pin in his opening match against Roman Perna of Mountain Island Charter Academy, a 9-0 major decision win over South Stanly’s Ranfere Garcia and an 11-3 major decision over Robbinsville’s Willie Riddle in the championship match.
“He’s obviously very talented,” Waddell said. “He’s the whole package. He has a great family and great support and he has a lot of humility. He’s also put in the work.”
UCA’s Ethan Hines lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Avery County’s undefeated Cooper Foster in the 106-pound state championship. The only point came in the second period when Foster earned an escape. Hines moved into the finals after a technical fall win in the opening round and two wins by decision.
UCA’s Jaden Maness battled his way into the 195 finals, winning by decision and major decision to set up his title match against Avery County’s Seth Blackledge. Blackledge earned the fall in 1:33.
Roberts advanced to the finals with second-round pins in the quarters and semifinals before dropping a 1-0 decision to Avery County’s Cael Dunn.
Other UCA wrestlers competing in the 1-A tournament included Brandon Jordan, who lost his first two matches at 126; Jack McArthur, who won his first round match by decision before falling in the next two rounds; and Alec Millikan, who placed fourth after falling in the opening round. Millikan rallied for a win by decision, a forfeit win and a 6-4 win for third place.
Carson Robinson placed third at 160. After a first-round loss, Robinson won by decision, fall and then a decision to earn third. Corbin Grissom lost his first two matches at 182.
“Overall, it didn’t go quite as well as we’d like, but that’s life,” Waddell said. “They competed hard. We lost a couple of tough decisions.”
Eastern Randolph had five wrestlers competing in the state 1-A meet with Adrian Lopez placing third at 126. Lopez fought back after falling by decision in the first round. He won by fall, won by decision and earned a tough 5-4 decision to place third.
At 106, Jamie Crabtree lost by pin in the first round, won by sudden death in the first round of consolations before being eliminated by major decision.
Carter Self lost his first two matches at 120, Bryce Foland fell in his first two matches at 160 and Ian Moore won his quarterfinal match at 220 before falling in the next two rounds.
Trinity’s Spencer May advanced to the championship match in the 120-pound weight class in the 2-A tournament, where he dropped a 7-5 sudden-death overtime decision. May had earned his way into the title bout with three impressive wins by fall, two in the first period and one in the second.
THS coach Brandon Coggins, who has been the head coach at THS since 2016, said a controversial call in this match and many others during the tournament were tough to fight through.
“For the cards we were dealt, we did pretty good,” Coggins said, referring to numerous controversial calls and the application of rules by the officials, one which cost May two points in his championship match. “This is the worst officiating there has ever been at the state tournament. There were some not paying attention, not knowing how to apply the rules. I talked to the officials at the head table (about a match on Friday) and they said it was the wrong call. Same thing today. Kids work too dang hard to take the matches out of their hands. I’m a little exhausted on that part.”
Overall, Trinity wrestlers had a solid meet. Brayden Hall, wrestling at 113, placed third. He won by technical fall and then by a decision in the first two rounds before falling in the semifinals in sudden death. He then won a pair of decisions to place third.
Wrestling at 126, Levi Dennis placed fifth. He won by fall and then by major decision in the first two rounds before falling in the semifinals by decision. He came back with a decision in the consolation semifinals and a win by decision for fifth place.
Baron Justice, wrestling at 138, lost his first two matches, while Gavin Hardister, at 182, won a first-round tiebreaker before falling twice.
Joey Smith finished fourth at 220 with a sudden-death victory in the first round, a victory by major decision in the quarterfinal, a semifinal loss and then a win by decision in the consolation finals and a win by fall before falling in the third-place match.
“We qualified six kids and we placed four, so I’m pretty happy with that,” Coggins said. “We have just about everyone coming back and we have some good kids coming up from middle school. The future is bright.”
A pair of wrestlers from Providence Grove competed in the 1-A state meet with Colton Wood earning a third-place finish. Wood earned a first-round fall, won when his opponent was disqualified in the second round, fell by a tiebreaker in the semifinals and then posted a win by decision for third place.
At 152, Mitchell Freeman dropped his first two matches.
Randleman High School’s Braxton Walker, competing at 195, lost by a decision in the first round, won by forfeit in the second round and lost by decision in the second round of consolations.
Kaelob Pearce dropped his first two matches at 132.
Among those joining Flores from SWR was Janaskel Perez at 106. He lost in the first round, recorded a win by pin in the second round and was eliminated in the second round of consolations.
Luke White finished sixth at 138, fighting back from a loss by decision in the first round. He won two matches by fall and one by major decision before losing by pin and by a medical forfeit.
At 145, Mason Leonard fell in the opening round, came back with a win by decision in the second round before dropping a decision in the second round of consolations.
Wheatmore had three wrestlers qualify with Trey Swaney earning a third place at 132. Swaney earned a first-round fall, lost his quarterfinal match by pin and responded with two wins by fall, a win by major decision and a win by decision for third place.
WHS’ Dominic Hittepole placed fourth, winning by major decision and by pinfall in the first two rounds before falling in the semifinals by decision. Hittepole then won by decision and fell in the third-place match.
Wrestling at 195, Randy Spencer dropped his first two matches.
In the state 3-A meet, Asheboro’s Diego Gutierrez placed third at 120. He started with a win by major decision, earned a quarterfinal pin, dropped a hard-fought 4-3 decision in the semifinals and won by a 5-2 decision in the consolation finals. He did this while wrestling with a broken foot. In fact, he’s wrestled the last three months with a broken foot.
“When he lost his semis by a point, he turned to me and said he was sorry and asked if I thought he could beat his next opponent,” AHS coach Jake Berrier said. “I told him yes. I feel he can beat anyone who is across the mat from him.”
AHS’ Xavier Santos dropped his first-round battle at 113 and forfeited in the second round, Christian Diaz dropped his first two matches 160 and Eddie Soto fell in his first two bouts at 195.
“We didn’t quite have the overall results we wanted, but we saw a lot of good things out of our kids,” Berrier said. “For Xavier, it’s been a tough couple of weeks to get his weight down and he just had trouble getting his feet moving.”