As the post-match circle tightened Monday, Polk County Middle’s wrestlers huddled just outside the school gym, Wolverine head coach Jerry Cox calmly offered a reassuring message.
“Don’t dwell on it,” Cox said of the Wolverines’ 49-42 loss to Bethel Middle. “Don’t let that encapsulate the end of what has been a great season.”
The loss, in the semifinals of the Blue Ridge Conference Dual Team Tournament at Polk Middle, ended what very nearly was a dream season for the Wolverines.
The team captured the first BRC East Division title in school history, swept through each East opponent in the opening half of the season for the first time in years and qualified 14 wrestlers for Wednesday’s conference individual tournament.
A narrow loss to a talented Bethel squad did not deter from any of those accomplishments, as Cox reminded.
“They’ve built the foundation, obviously,” Cox said. “I told them to focus on the season as a whole, not to think of just this last match.”
The Wolverines very nearly flipped the final outcome. Polk twice had wrestlers pinned in the final 10 seconds of a period, and without doubt the match of the day took place at 147 pounds. Polk’s Chester Wilson fought back from a near fall in the second period, scoring a reversal in the final seconds, then took command of the match in the third period. He came ever so close to a pin, inches away, before time ran out and he dropped an 8-7 decision.
That fight, though, typified the Wolverines’ season, even on a day that wasn’t quite theirs.
“We had an amazing season,” Cox said. “That’s what I want them to remember.”
Waynesville Middle capped a perfect season by defeating Bethel in the championship match.
106: Gibson (B) d. Jackson, 4-2
115: Aiden Billings (PC) p. Burnette
122: Mehaffey (B) p. Amon Villarreal
128: Ledford (B) d. Carson Bell, 6-1
134: Isaiah Wilmoth (PC) by forfeit
140: Warren (B) p. Zach McCraw
147: Harris (B) d. Chester Wilson, 8-7
154: Gomez (B) p. Simon Moore
162: Rojas (PC) by forfeit
172: Zalen McCraw (PC) by forfeit
184: Tanner McKinney (PC) by forfeit
197: Lucas Johnson (PC) by forfeit
220: Chambers (B) p. Kamron Montgomery
HWT: Double forfeit
78: Henline (B) p. Blake Cole
85: Curtis (B) p. Liam Jackson
92: Plemmons (B) maj. dec. Brody Wolfe, 8-0
100: Connor Ahlert (PC) p. Silver