By Tim Gardner
From one wrestling powerhouse to another.
That would aptly describe two former Avery County High School wrestlers joining Appalachian State University’s wresting program as freshmen for the 2022-23 season.
Appalachian State head wrestling coach John Mark Bentley, also a former Avery High wrestler, has announced the Mountaineers’ fourteen newcomers for the 2022-23 season. They include Levi Andrews (285-weight class) from Newland and Ethan Shell (133-weight class) from the Cranberry Community. Both Andrews and Shell were star wrestlers for the Avery High Vikings.
Andrews is a four-time state champion for Avery High, winning at 220 pounds as a freshman and sophomore before claiming heavyweight titles as a junior and senior. His career record of 190-10 includes winning a phenomenal 51 of 52 matches as a senior.
Avery trailed 24-15 in the 2022 1-A state dual team final before a first-minute pin by Andrews began a run of five straight wins in an eventual 39-30 team victory by the Vikings.
Andrews is a two-time National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) All-American and a second-place finisher at the Grappler Fall Classic.
Shell is a three-time state champion and four-time state finalist for Avery High. He posted a sterling career record of 199 wins against only 9 losses. He was the 1-A state champion at 138 pounds as a senior, when he went 50-2.
He was the state champion at 132 pounds as a junior and 120 pounds as a sophomore. He was the state runner-up at 113 pounds as a freshman.
Shell was undefeated as a junior, 58-3 as a sophomore and 52-4 as a freshman.
He won four state regional championships.
Andrews and Shell helped Avery win a total of five state team championships in each of their last three seasons (three state tournaments; two dual team titles).
Appalachian State’s 2022-23 newcomer class is made up of 14 high school standouts who combined for 21 individual state championships and 28 state finals appearances in their prep careers. Five members of the class are from North Carolina, while the rest are from eight other states: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
Bentley is in his thirteenth season as Appalachian State’s head coach. He has directed the Mountaineers to six Southern Conference regular-season titles, including four outright and unbeaten. In the past eight seasons, Appalachian State’s 51-5 conference record ranks among the six best league records in Major College wrestling. During the same time span, Appalachian State is 66-7 against non-Power Five Conference opponents with eight victories against teams from Power Five leagues: Duke (2015-16), Indiana (2015-16), Number 15-ranked Oregon State (2016-17), Number 25- ranked North Carolina (2016-17), Duke (2016-17), Duke (2018-19), Duke (2019-20) and Duke (2021-22).
Appalachian State was 7-0 in Southern Conference duals in 2021-22 despite having its full lineup available for just one conference dual and won at least a share of the conference regular-season title for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. Last season, Appalachian State was a top-30 finish at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Team Championships.
Bentley was the second prep wrester in North Carolina history to win four individual state championship while wrestling at Avery High. He compiled a perfect 144-0 career prep wrestling record, capped by an individual National Championship in 1997. He next was a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Champion while wrestling collegiately for the University of North Carolina.
Bentley was also the head wrestling coach at Watauga High School in Boone from 2003-06.
Some information is this article was provided by Bret Strelow of the Appalachian State University Athletics Strategic Communications Department.