In what will likely be the only state wrestling championship ever held after the first day of summer, Union Pines flirted with a 3A state title, while Lee County’s Cullen MacDonagh secured a draw. difficult and saw their tournament come to an end after just one game on Saturday.
Everyone involved has been through a rough season, which was delayed for several months after COVID-19 essentially wiped out the fall sporting schedule. Some wrestlers had conflicts with other sports and had to skip the 2020-21 campaign, but others had seasons to remember. Union Pines had a perfect 21-0 double season, which they ended by accepting a 4A Power Laney challenge and beating them 36-31 in a duel.
Unfortunately, the NCHSAA canceled the two-team championship and most likely denied the Vikings a state championship. Union Pines, a team better suited to the doubles format, finished third overall in the tournament championship, gaining 62 points against 71.5 for Central Cabarrus and 70 for Piedmont. Individually, Aaron Faison won the title at 152 pounds, Aiden McCafferty was a finalist at 170, and Andrew Clark was third at 132.
As for Laney, who was beaten by the powerful Vikings in doubles, the Buccaneers won the tournament title 4A by 21 points.
MacDonagh was the only Lee County male wrestler to come this far. A 285-pound regional finalist, he drew Southeast Guilford’s Alex McCalop in his opener at the state meet, held at Eastern Guilford High School in Gibsonville. McCalop ultimately finished fourth in the United States after falling to Cody Hardy of Parkwood in the semifinals and then losing the game for third place. But against MacDonagh, both wrestlers didn’t score any goals in the first half before McCalop opened the second period down, then scored a breakout after 20 seconds and later a strikeout for a 3-0 lead after of them. MacDonagh chose to open the third period and escaped after just 29 seconds. The two then fought in neutral, but McCalop scored with 36 seconds left. MacDonagh escaped again, but another McCalop strike won it.
Since there was no consolation console in wrestling tournaments this year – another rule change that likely hurt Union Pines’ chances – MacDonagh’s season ended with a 16 record – 5. He ended a brilliant sports career in high school in which he excelled in both football and wrestling.
As for the Vikings, Faison tore the field at 152, starting with a technical drop in the first round, then scoring a pin in the first period in just 69 seconds, then dusting Central Cabarrus’s Luke Masterson 9-1 in the semifinals. . In the Championship game, Faison faced a familiar foe, Nicholas Williams of conference rival Triton. The score was 2-1 at the start of the second period before Faison took command, scoring a breakout and a withdrawal to lead 5-2. Williams responded with a reversal late in the period, but Faison recovered one of those points on a breakaway to make it 6-3. Williams opened the third with a breakout, but Faison clinched the title with an out 11 seconds to go, 8-4.
McCafferty had few problems until the final, where he trailed most of the time before taking a 4-3 lead over West Carteret’s River Carroll in the third thanks to a breakout and one out. But Carroll tied the score with a breakout on his own and sent the game into overtime, where he won with one out in sudden death.
As for Clark, he had two narrow wins to open the tournament, winning 6-5 on a late breakaway and then 4-2 in the quarterfinals. After losing in the semifinals, he finished third when his opponent lost the match for third place. Western Harnett’s Will Lewis won this weight class with two bowling in the first period and two technical falls.
In the women’s wrestling invitation, held last week at Glenn High School in Kernersville, Karly McNeill (126) and Emma Tyndall (138) of Lee County were both eliminated in the quarterfinals.