By Tim Gardner
Avery County High School had never won a state championship in any team sport until last Saturday, February 8.
That’s when on a day fueled by emotion and punctuated with ultimate joy, the Vikings defeated Uwharrie Charter 35-30 to conclude a dream season and claim the North Carolina High School Athletics Association (NCHSAA) 1-A Dual Team Wrestling State Title.
The State Wrestling Tournament finals were held in the Greensboro Coliseum Field House Annex.
“The community support has been amazing,” Avery head coach Matthew Dunn said. “These wrestlers have worked so hard for this and we are so proud of them.”
Zachary Vance secured the victory for Avery in the 285-pound division, defeating Sergio Saldana from Uwharrie Charter 7-0 to win by decision and seal the title ahead of Avery’s final two weight classes that were vacant of qualified participants.
Vance’s victory put the Vikings up 35-18 with him earning the 1-A Most Outstanding Wrestler Award for the Dual Team Playoffs.
Avery’s trio of Levi Andrews (220 lb.), River Griffith (132 lb.) and Lucas Andrews (182 lb.) all earned wins by fall. The Vikings grabbed major decisions by Ethan Shell (120 lb.) and Tristan Adams (138 lb.).
Avery started the match out strong. Shell’s major decision to start the match and a decision by Jonas Hayes at 126 put the Vikings up 7-0.
Griffith’s pin increased the lead to 13-0.
Avery increased its cushion to 17-0 with a major decision by Adams. But Uwharrie Charter broke the streak with a decision by Grayson Roberts at 145 to make the score 17-3.
Another decision victory for the Eagles from Jerry Jimenez at 152, followed by a first period pin by Doug Bowles at 160 cut Avery’s lead to 17-12.
The Vikings got a decision victory at 170 by Dalton Towe and then a huge pin in the third period at 182 from Lucas Andrews to put them ahead 26-12 with five matches left.
The Eagles responded with a pin at 195 from Aiden Carter in the final seconds. But Avery answered with a quick pin at 220 from Levi Andrews to make the score 32-18 with three matches left.
The pin by Levi Andrews gave him 101 for his prep career. He won his 100th career match last Thursday night during the regional final win over Robbinsville.
It came down to the winner claiming the team championship in the heavyweight match. A strong second period by Vance was more than enough to push Avery to victory to secure the duel.
Avery’s complete State Championship Wrestling Match results were:
Avery County (27-3) def. Uwharrie Charter (42-2) 35-30
120 lb. – Ethan Shell (Avery County) defeated (def.) Gage Beal (Uwharrie Charter) by major decision (19-6).
126 lb. – Jonah Hayes (Avery County) def. Austin Kennedy (Uwharrie Charter)
132 lb. – River Griffith (Avery County) def. Byan Lackey (Uwharrie Charter) by fall (0:28)
138 lb. – Tristan Adams (Avery County) def. Drew Shelton (Uwharrie Charter) by major decision (13-3)
145 lb. – Grayson Roberts (Uwharrie Charter) def. Johnathan Cable (Avery County) by decision (9-4)
152 lb. – Jerry Jimenez (Uwharrie Charter) def. Bradley Parker (Avery County) by decision (12-6)
160 lb. – Doug Bowles (Uwharrie Charter) def. Seth Blackledge (Avery County) by fall (1:09)
170 lb. – Dalton Towe (Avery County) def. Cameron Clark (Uwharrie Charter) by decision (4-0)
182 lb. – Lucas Andrews (Avery County) def. Jamie Bernal (Uwharrie Charter) by fall (5:34)
195 lb. – Aiden Carter (Uwharrie Charter) def. Dakota Hudson (Avery County) by fall (5:59)
220 lb. – Levi Andrews (Avery County) def. Jaden Marion (Uwharrie Charter) by fall (0:40)
285 lb. – Zachary Vance (Avery County) def. Sergio Saldana (Uwharrie Charter) by decision (7-0)
106 lb. – Heaven Fitch (Uwharrie Charter) won by forfeit
113 lb. – Lucas Bice (Uwharrie Charter) won by forfeit
Most Outstanding Wrestler: Zachary Vance (Avery County) 285 lb.