The “team” portion of the North Carolina high school wrestling season is in the books. This weekend, it’s every man for himself.
The individual Regional tournaments begin tonight and continue through Saturday afternoon across the state. As always, the McDowell Titans will compete in the West 4A Regional. Hough High in Cornelius is the host school.
The Titans had a wrestler seeded in every one of the 14 weight classes, led by senior Toney McGee, the defending state runner-up at 126 pounds and the region’s top seed at that weight.
“We got all 14 seeded, and I was really pleased with that,” said Titans head coach Tim Hutchins. “There are fewer teams in our regional than last year. I hope we get a few kids through.”
For McGee, the regional is the first step in a quest to make history. As a sophomore two years ago, McGee became the first underclassman and just the third wrestler in school history to win a state championship. He came up just short a year ago, but should have a solid chance to become McDowell’s first two-time state champ.
He enters the regional with a perfect 51-0 mark, owns the school record for career victories and is 195-13 in his four-year career, including a 100-2 mark the last two seasons.
McGee is the team’s only top-seeded grappler, but 120-pounder Alldyn Conley, a junior, is the No. 2 seed at his weight. Conley is 27-12. Hutchins said Conley appears close to 100 percent after suffering a bruised sternum late in the regular season.
A pair of Titans drew third seeds, including one who could also make some history.
Jacob Phillips (152) is the No. 3 seed and will be trying to become a three-time state qualifier. He and McGee, provided they advance, would be the fourth and fifth Titans to ever accomplish that feat. Phillips enters the tourney 35-11. A knee injury midway through the season almost certainly kept Phillips from the 40-win plateau and an even better seed in the loaded 152-pound class.
Senior Channing Watson (145 pounds), who turned in a solid 29-11 campaign, is the third seed at his weight as well.
Three Titans are seeded fifth in their brackets. Calvin Stevenson (106, 27-19), Daniel Maynor (138, 29-21) and Aaron Duncan (285, 28-20) were all seeded fifth. Duncan chose not to compete in the regionals.
Seniors Connor Good (160, 32-19) and Aaron Buchanan (170, 31-21) were each seeded sixth in their weight classes.
Freshman Toby Finn is the seventh seed in a brutal, 113-pound bracket. Finn (25-13) won the N.C. ninth-grade state championship in Winston-Salem last weekend, and, according to Hutchins, has improved every time he has stepped on the mat this season.
Junior Josh Morgan (182, 28-19) and senior Dante Quitman (132, 29-21) are both seeded No. 8.
Joe Hullette (220, 14-23) is a ninth seed and Aamon Haynes (195, 17-28) is seeded 12th.
Friday’s weigh-in begins at 3:30 at Hough, with wrestling following at 5 p.m. Saturday’s weigh-in is set for 8 a.m., with wrestling beginning at 9:30.
Other teams in the West Regional include fellow Northwestern 3A/4A Conference member South Caldwell, along with East Meck, Providence, Vance, Mallard Creek, Mooresville, Ardrey Kell, Hough, Myers Park, North Meck, West Charlotte, South Meck, Berry Academy, Lake Norman, Harding, Hopewell, Olympic and West Meck.
The State 4A Championships are set for Feb. 15-17 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Notes: The Titans had three regional finalists last season: McGee, Phillips and Luis Herrera…The school record for most regional finalists is four in 1994-95. The four were Gene Gordon, Jon Hartman, Greg Berryhill and Matt Hopkins. Hopkins and Gordon won regional titles…The record for most regional champions is three in 1991-92, with Mike Tyler, T.A. Boysworth and Vinny Mehovic claiming regional titles…Tyler is McDowell’s only two-time regional champ…This is Hutchins’ last regional as the Titans’ head coach. He is retiring this season after 23 years at the helm…In addition to Finn’s ninth-grade state championship, the Titans’ Preston Dennison placed third in the event. Trevor Kettles, Dalton Byerly and Stevenson also competed.