The spotlight-only near-darkness for the championship round of Friday’s Western Highlands Conference wrestling tournament couldn’t hide the bright outlook for the future of Polk County wrestling.
The Wolverines placed three wrestlers in the final round for the first time in at least six years and had five wrestlers earn top-three finishes in the evening-long competition at Polk.
Collier Foster, Preston Burnett and Brennan Worthington each wrestled their way into the championship match, with Carlos Sedano and Trey Thompson winning their respective consolation brackets to also earn a podium finish.
For a program with a combined three conference tournament final appearances in the past three years, the night showed just how much this year’s squad has developed.
“We’re still in the phase of trying to get better and learning how to wrestle,” said first-year Polk County head coach Adam Dedmon. “We’ve improved a great deal this season.
“We had three in the finals and were close to having two more in the finals. It was great to hold the tournament here to get the kids excited, to go out and wrestle in the finals with a cheering crowd under the mat light.”
Foster dropped his championship match to Avery’s Joe Jordan, with Burnett losing to Avery’s River Griffth, named the WHC wrestler of the year.
Worthington had the closest match of the three, extending his final at 132 pounds through all three periods before losing a decision to Avery’s Jonah Hayes.
Sedano and Thompson each easily won their matches in the consolation round final to earn their medal position.
Avery, which won its first WHC regular-season title in 22 years, also claimed the conference team title, winning eight individual divisions and placing second and third in two more.
Polk County will now turn its attention to the 1A West Regional on Feb. 8-9 at Robbinsville High School. Wrestler Tori Strickland does plan to compete in next weekend’s Women’s Wrestling Invitational state tourney in Winston-Salem.
“I think we have several kids who could do well at state, so hopefully we’ll get a state qualifer,” said Dedmon. Polk County’s last state tournament qualifier was Chase Emory in 2015. “We’ll come back in Monday and regroup and start getting ready for the regionals.”