The Braves faced off against the visiting Saints from Limestone College in their first action of the
Eastern College Athletic Conference this season on Jan. 15 at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court.
The Saints came marching in with a 7-0 following decision and major decision losses by freshmen Nick Daggett and Ethan Hnasko, but the Black and Gold fought back with six straight victories on their way to a 22-11 triumph over their rivals.
Rodney Shepard debuts as a Brave on the mat.
Shepard recently transfered from NC State and won the match
15-4 in a major decision. Photo by Joshua Reed
“At the end of the day we’re making improvements. A young squad and we’re super excited for them and again another great opportunity to try to get to where we want to be come late February,” said head coach Othello “O.T.” Johnson. “Saw some things that we’ve been working on in the room, and the guys are really starting to buy in and execute those things and not let the moment get the best of them.”
The night’s win streak was ignited when the stud freshman, Luke McDonough, squeaked out a 10-9 decision win at the 141-pound weight class, followed by a dominant 12-4 major decision victory from Tyler Makosy in his debut at 149.
Redshirt senior Erik Milks would extend UNCP’s hot streak to three straight with a decisive 2-0 decision win at 157, and in his season debut, NC State transfer Rodney Shepard had his way with his opponent in the 15-4 major decision to give the Braves a 13-7 lead over the Saints. The home team extended both its lead and its winning streak with decision wins at the 174- and 184-weight classes by Brandon Sloop and Faris Teia.
“Major decision. We’re excited to have him in the line up and we’re excited to have him as a Brave and we’re excited for his future here. It definitely changes the complex of our team for the future,” Johnson said about Shepard’s dominant debut. “When he got out there and did his thing it definitely motivated the guys that came after him.”
While the Braves’ impressive consecutive win streak was snapped when sophomore Bryce Walker lost by a 12-4 major decision at 197, the final and most exciting bout of the night came via the heavyweight match.
Redshirt sophomore Andrew Colborn ended a great night of Black and Gold wrestling with an action packed 6-5 overtime decision victory that induced roaring cheers from the home crowd when he got the escape to win the match and extend the lead for the final time.
“We wrestled well all the way across the board. Our coaching staff did a great job keeping everybody calm and staying in the match,” Colborn said. “My teammates and everyone was behind us - guys on the bench were screaming and yelling, guys in the stands were screaming and yelling, the fans were going crazy - everybody was behind us and it was a great one.”
Instead of trying to change or adapt their recruits individual wrestling styles, Johnson and his coaching staff focus on helping their wrestlers improve on what they do best on a consistent basis. Coach Johnson gave credit to his staff for the tremendous coaching and recruiting jobs they do in the construction and development of a roster with such diverse styles of wrestling.
“These guys work their butts off on a daily basis just like every athlete on this campus and people don’t see the blood, sweat and tears figuratively speaking that these guys put in. For them to be able to showcase that on the mat and for their fans to be behind them and there were a lot of athletes in the stands from the baseball team to the swim team. I saw a plethora of student athletes out there and they understand that, but you also had some students from the general student population that were out there just being after it. Brave Nation really showed up and showed out and it was just one of those environments where you get in and you’re just proud and proud to be a Brave,” Johnson said.