Preston Burnett delivered the best state tournament finish by a Polk County wrestler in nine years, placing second Saturday in the 2020 NCHSAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Greensboro.
Burnett reached the championship match at 132 pounds before falling to three-time state champion River Griffith of Avery. Burnett battled a bloody nose early in the match before Griffith recorded a pin with 44 seconds left in the first period.
Burnett’s runner-up finish highlighted the best Polk County team showing in a decade. Sophomore Satchel McCoy lost his semifinal match to Mitchell’s Dylan Lowery, but rebounded to defeat Rosewood’s William Kimball en route to finishing fourth in the 120-pound class.
The two podium finishes (top four) marked the first time that has happened since 2011, when Tyler Philpott’s state championship led three Wolverine podium efforts.
Polk County finished tied for eighth in the team standings. Avery had five individual state champions and add the team championship to the dual team state title won earlier this month.
“I thought we came to wrestle,” said Polk County head coach Adam Dedmon. “Everybody wrestled well. I thought we had an excellent tournament overall.
“Preston had some tough matches. He survived and advanced and wrestled tough. All the extra practice he put in this year propelled him to the state final. He ran into River Griffith, and we knew that could happen when we bumped him up from 126 to 132. But we thought he could get to the state final at 132, and he went out and did that.”
Two other Polk County wrestlers placed in the top six. Senior Trey Thompson suffered a hard-fought 5-1 loss by decision to Mount Airy’s Jackson Tumbarello in the 195-pound semifinal. The match was scoreless until the third period, when Tumbarello scored a takedown midway through the period to take a 3-1 lead, then added another late in the match as Thompson tried a late move to even the score.
Thompson lost in the consolation semifinals to Thomas Jefferson’s Wade Turner.
“I’m proud of Trey. He wrestled great,” Dedmon said. “Those two seniors have been a key part of the program at Polk. They’ve provided great leadership.”
Sophomore Collier Foster won his opening consolation match Saturday, an 8-3 decision over Granville Central’s Tristen Scott, before falling to Rosewood’s Logan Tortual in the consolation semifinals.
Polk County’s remaining state qualifier, junior Gage McSwain, dropped his first consolation match Saturday, a 7-4 decision loss to Louisburg’s Elijah Mitchell.
“I thought Satchel McCoy was a dark horse coming in,” Dedmon said. “To battle back and get fourth as a sophomore is great. Collier had a good tournament as well. Those two sophomores wrestled great.”
Burnett reached the championship match with a dramatic overtime win over South Stanly’s Renfere Garcia in the semifinals. Burnett scored an early takedown for a 2-0 lead and still led 4-2 entering the third period. Renfere rallied, though, and took a 5-4 advantage with a takedown.
But with 34 seconds left and Burnett working feverishly to escape Renfere’s hold, the South Stanly freshman was called for a penalty, giving Burnett a point to tie the match.
The Polk County senior wasted no time in overtime, quickly putting Renfere on his back and recording the pin 23 seconds into the extra period.
Burnett finished the season with a 44-11 record, those 44 wins setting a school record for most in a single year. Foster also set a school record, wrestling in 59 matches during the season.