The McDowell Titans and Lake Norman Wildcats almost wrestled to a deadlock in the first round of the State 4A Duals Tuesday at Mallard Creek.
But in the end, the Wildcats were three points better on the scoreboard.
McDowell (27-8) suffered a season-ending 37-34 loss to Lake Norman in the opening round of the duals. The Wildcats then went on to edge Mallard Creek 40-39 to advance to the third round.
It could just as easily have been the Titans.
Both McDowell and Lake Norman won seven bouts. The Titans had four pins, a major decision and two decisions. The Wildcats ended up with five pins, a major and one decision.
“I knew it was going to be tight,” said McDowell head coach Tim Hutchins. “Whoever got the matchups and whoever pulled out an upset somewhere was going to win it. We didn’t get pins where I expected us to, and we got pins where I didn’t think we should have.
“But to be in the duals was great, and to have a chance to win was great. Mallard Creek was a great host. We wrestled hard; we just needed a few breaks here and there that we didn’t get.”
McDowell jumped out to a 12-0 lead with pins in the first two weight classes, 145 and 152 pounds. But the lead changed hands four times before Lake Norman pulled away with a string of three pins between 106 and 120.
Channing Watson (145) opened the match by pinning Ian Daviero in the third period. Jacob Phillips (152) pinned Randy Schafer in the third, and the Titans led 12-0.
Lake Norman bumped its state-ranked 152 pounder, Josh Rhodenveck, to 160, where he defeated Connor Good 11-1 for a major decision that made it 12-4.
At 170, the Titans put in Josh Morgan, who usually wrestles at 182, and he scored a 5-1 victory over Tommy Murray.
But the Wildcats’ Nathan Dugan, the state’s top-ranked 182-pounder, pinned Aaron Buchanan to cut the lead to 15-10. Lake Norman’s Hunter Stewart followed with a pin of Aamon Haynes at 195, and the Wildcats led 16-15.
Joe Hullette (220) put the Titans back in front 18-16 when he claimed a 7-5 decision over Nijel Goss. Aaron Duncan (285) increased the lead to 24-16 when he pinned Johnny Carr in the first period.
But Lake Norman won the next three bouts to take the lead for good.
Kaiden Fisher (106) pinned the Titans’ Calvin Stevenson to get the Wildcats within 24-22. Lake Norman’s Will Edmondson – the second top-ranked grappler on the Wildcats’ roster – pinned Toby Finn at 113, and Lake Norman led 28-24.
Finally, Corbin Houdeshell pinned Alldyn Conley at 120 pounds, and the Titans faced a 34-24 deficit.
McDowell got as close as 34-28 when Toney McGee won a 15-5 major decision over Daniel Curvin at 126.
But Lake Norman put the match out of reach when Timmy Kennett clipped Dante Quitman 6-2 at 132 pounds. That win pushed the lead to 37-28 with only one bout remaining. The Wildcats forfeited to Daniel Maynor at 138 to account for the final score.
Next up for the Titans are the West 4A Regionals, set for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9 and 10, at Hough High School in Cornelius. The seed meeting for the regionals takes place next Tuesday.