The UNCP wrestling team hit the road for their final dual meet of the season against another nationally ranked team, the King University Tornados at the Student Center Complex in Bristol, Tenn., Feb. 12.
Despite being birds of prey, it was the visiting Braves that tore through the Tornado’s lineup like a force of nature as the Black and Gold cruised to a regional championship with a 35-12 triumph over King. The Braves won the first eight matchups of the evening to establish a staggering 35-0 lead, and the home team wouldn’t get on the score card until they picked up a pair of wins in the last two weight classes.
The Black and Gold not only ended the regular season winning their last five match ups, two of which came against nationally ranked opponents, they captured the program’s first Eastern College Athletic Conference title.
“In years past before we joined this conference the only thing we could look forward to was potentially winning a regional title as a team, but to be able to have a bunch of different lineups over the course of the last two months just to keep things going and put ourselves in a position to win has been gratifying to know that all the guys are bought in,” said head coach Othello “O.T.” Johnson. “It wasn’t a 99 percent buy-in, it was 100 percent buy-in, which made it easy so for us to be able to do that with 17 plus different lineups has been fun and feels great, there’s nothing about a championship that doesn’t feel good.”
In the first bout of the night, sensational freshman Nick Daggett set the tone again with his dominant 19-6 major decision at the 125lbs weight class. Redshirt sophomore Jayquon McEntyre followed that up with an astounding 8-5 come back victory over nationally ranked Dustin Kirk, who came into their bout ranked third in the nation at 133lbs.
“As the season has gone along [McEntyre’s] questioned his own ability and we see what we know he’s capable of, and I think Monday night he finally was able to trust the process from start to end and it paid dividends in his favor,” said Johnson. “Obviously, Dustin is a returning All American and Jayquon wrestled him once earlier in the year and lost to him 5-2. We told him that there is a formula that we feel if you follow, you can go out there and you can beat this kid.”
The Black and Gold would continue to rattle off wins as freshman Luke Mcdonough notched a 9-2 decision victory at 141lbs and redshirt sophomore Tyler Makosy came back in the final minute of his 149lbs-bout to record a 16-12 decision win.
With redshirt junior Eric Milks’ 10-2 major decision victory at 157lbs, coupled with a pair of forfeit wins at 165 and 174, the Braves extended their commanding lead to 29-0. Junior Feris Teia would conclude his stellar regular season campaign with a third period pin in the 184lbs-bout.
“By the time you get to that 184-bout, [Teia’s] match is usually a dual clincher or if we’re behind he puts us back in the fighting position to be able to say that we can do this,” Johson said. The Black and Gold’s undisputed night would come to an end following a Bryce Walker’s defeat by pin at 197lbs and a forfeit in the heavyweight bout, but the victory was already well in hand for UNCP at that point.