Laney and North Brunswick standouts use perfect seasons to share all-area honors
Laney’s Mark Samuel and North Brunswick’s Bryan Aragao took different paths, but their respective wrestling journeys finished with similar results: an undefeated season and an individual state championship.
“There’s honestly no way to describe it. All the hard work you put in, it’s for those five seconds after wining the state championship. It was just awesome,” Aragao said.
The duo will share one more honor. Samuel and Aragao are the StarNews All-Area co-Wrestlers of the Year.
Samuel started his wrestling career when he was still in elementary school, perfecting his craft with the Port City Pirates club team before arriving at Laney last year.
He immediately dominated the local scene, but fell short of his ultimate goals with a fifth-place finish competing in the 106-pound weight class at the NCHSAA 4A State Championships.
“It motivated me a lot to do better this year,” Samuel said. “I was pretty confident I had what it took to win it. Coming in, I had already beaten the top-eight guys, so I just had to stay consistent.”
Samuel did just that at this year’s state finals, winning his first two matches with pins before a 6-0 victory in the semifinals. In the championship, the Laney sophomore got ahead early and finished off a 7-2 victory over Hough’s Brandt Fajerman to finish the season 55-0.
“The nerves just went away, and I wrestled like I could,” Samuel said. “As soon as I won, it hit me, and it was really cool.”
While Samuel can hardly remember a time in his life he wasn’t wrestling, Aragao didn’t get started in the sport till his freshman year. North Brunswick head coach Tom York had to recruit Aragao to join the team.
He started his career as a heavyweight, but Aragao eventually dropped nearly 100 pounds and got down to the 182-pound division as a junior. According to York, Aragao would run home from practice and developed a obsessive work ethic once he fell in love with the sport.
After qualifying for the NCHSAA 3A State Championship as a junior, Aragao had his sights set on a state championship to close out his high school career. It might not have seemed like a realistic proposition, but Aragao had full faith.
“I think no matter what, you have to set the highest possible goals,” Aragao said. “This isn’t something I thought could happen when I was a freshman, but I worked really hard to put myself here as a senior.”
In his state title run, Aragao recorded only one pin, yet was never truly challenged. He knocked off West Carteret’s Jake Reynolds 7-2 in the championship, a repeat of the East Regional final. Aragao finished his senior year with a 52-0 record.
Aragao plans on wrestling in college, and has offers from a handful of local schools to continue his career.
After maintaining his 106-pound status for the last two seasons, Samuel expects to go up in weight class next year, and he’s excited for the challenge.
“I don’t want to commit to any weight class but I am going to come in and just see where I’m at next year,” Samuel said. “It should be fun competing against new guys. I think I’ll be able to be pretty good, still.”
106 pounds – Mark Samuel, sophomore, Laney: Samuel went 55-0, winning the MEC, NCHSAA 4A East Regional and NCHSAA 4A State Championships.
182 pounds – Bryan Aragao, senior, North Brunswick: Aragao capped off his carrer with a 52-0 record and titles in the MEC, NCHSAA 3A East Regional and NCHSAA 3A State Championships.
113 pounds – Jayden Harrison, sophomore, Laney: Harrison won the MEC Tournament and placed second at the NCHSAA 4A East Regional.
120 pounds – Ben Baker, senior, Topsail: Baker finished in sixth place at the NCHSAA 3A State Championships and won the 3A East Regional.
126 pounds – Wyatt Gentile, junior, West Brunswick: Gentile won the MEC Championship and qualified for the NCHSAA 3A East Regional.
132 pounds – Conner Johnson, junior, Laney: Johnson won the MEC Championship, the NCHSAA 4A East Regional and finished third at the 4A State Championships.
138 pounds – Marcus Mondragon, senior, Laney: Mondragon won the NCHSAA 4A State Championship to go along with his MEC title and a final record of 55-4.
145 pounds – Seth Thomas, senior, Laney: Thomas brought home titles in the NCHSAA 4A East Regional and the MEC Tournament.
152 pounds – Yoel Del Rio, junior, North Brunswick: Del Rio won the MEC Tournament, placed second in the NCHSAA 3A East Regional and finished sixth at the 3A State Championships.
160 pounds – Alex Grommesh, senior, Asley: Grommesh won the MEC title before placing thid at the NCHSAA 4A East Regional.
170 pounds – Devon Bell, sophomore, Laney: Bell battled injuries before winning the NCHSAA 4A East Regional and placing third at the 4A State Championships.
195 pounds – Sae’vyon McCray, senior, West Brunswick: The MEC Wrestler of the Year won his league tournament before a fifth-place finish at the NCHSAA 3A State Championships.
220 pounds – Corey Pollock, sophomore, Laney: Pollock was the MEC champion and finished in sixth place at the NCHSAA 4A State Championships.
285 pounds – Emmanuel Bell, junior, Laney: Bell won the NCHSAA 4A East Regional, the MEC Tournament and placed fourth at the 4A State Championships.
106 – Christian Zickefoose, junior, West Brunswick
113 – Joey Panas, sophomore, North Brunswick
120 – Evan Kite, senior, Laney
126 – Daniel Arredondo, junior, Topsail
132 – Matthew Smith, senior, West Brunswick
138 – Alexander Hopper, freshman, Topsail
145 – Hunter Campbell, junior, North Brunswick
152 – Bender Sanderson, junior, South Brunswick
160 – Noah Harrell, sophomore, South Brunswick
170 – Jon Luke Horne, senior, Ashley
182 – Ethan Files, freshman, Ashley
195 – Noah Atkinson, junior, South Brunswick
220 – Alex Jones, senior, Topsail
285 – Jayln McLammy, senior, Ashley
Honors: Wrestler of the Year – Sae’vyon McCray, West Brunswick; Coach of the Year – Wes Whitman, Topsail; Team Sportsmanship – Hoggard.
First Team: Laney – Mark Samuel, Jayden Harrison, Evan Kite, Conner Johnson, Marcus Mondragon, Seth Thomas, Corey Pollock, Emmanuel Bell; West Brunswick – Wyatt Gentile, Sae’vyon McCray; North Brunswick – Yoel Del Rio, Bryan Aragao; Ashley – Alex Grommesh, Jon Luke Horne.
Second Team: West Brunswick – Christian Zickefoose, Bryson Taylor, Matthew Smith, Wayde Sibley; North Brunswick – Malik Law; New hanover – Matteo Meehan, Devante Patterson; Ashley – Jake Stewart, Ethan Files, Jayln McLammy; South Brunswick – Bender Sanderson, Noah Harrell, Noah Atkinson; Hoggard – Neil Phillips.
First Team: Croatan – Jacob Caldwell, Drake Egan, Ryan Lindsay; Dixon – Logan Pugh, Dallas Senay, Keagan Bolman, Ethan Mills, Tyler Proffitt, Andrew Edens; Trask – Rogan Heath; Southwest Onslow – Ezekiel Jones, Jason Rodriguez Jr.; Pender – Da’Jon Smith; East Carteret – Ezekiel Jayne.