The Person High School wrestling team won all but three individual matches on Wednesday night, as the Rockets beat Rockingham County 65-15 on senior night.
Before the match Person celebrated its four seniors: Dawson Owen, the Rockets’ 145-lb. wrestler, Alex Martinez, at 160, 220-lb wrestler Keith Thompson and Marcus Vincent, the Rocket’s 285-lb wrestler. The seniors’ family members escorted them to the mat, where head coach Mark Litchfield Jr. said a few words about each athlete.
Once the match began,Person took off like, well, like a Rocket. PHS won the first five matches by forfeit: Derrick Laycock, Payne Garrett, Steven Crabtree, Thompson, and Vincent each won without facing an opponent.
“I hate that some of those forfeits came to our seniors,” said Litchfield. “Luckily, we started at a weight as to where we could get the forfeits out of the way. I have no control over that, but they understand the situation. I’m glad that everyone was able to at least be here, and get their families to support them.”
Before the Rockets’ 126-lb. wrestler, Diego Jimenez, started wrestling, Person was already up 30-0.
Jimenez faced off against the Cougars’ Holden Joyce. Jimenez got the best of Joyce, pinning him in 3:16. Up next for the Rockets was 132 wrestler Jailin Smith, who pinned Quinton Whaley in 59 seconds. After Rockingham County won the 138 and 145 weight classes to close the deficit to 42-12, Person took control for the rest of the match, as Dawson Thibodeau won at 152 by technical fall in 2:24, 160-pounder Alex Martinez won by pin in 2:59, the Rockets’ 170 grappler, Paul Bailey, won by pin in 51 seconds, and Karson Evans won by pin in 33 seconds in the 182 classification. At 195, Zak Lieske lost 2-1 in three periods to close out the match, but it was too little, too late for the Cougars.
“Overall, I was pleased with the way they wrestled, especially coming off two tough losses (Northern Guilford and Morehead),” said Litchfield. “I think everybody’s getting their head back on straight and focusing on what’s ahead.”
Person had the opportunity to obtain more points in two of their matches.
“Dawson Thibodeau wrestled a good match, dominated via a tech fall, but I wanted that pin,” said Litchfield. “That one pin could matter. You always try to go for the max bonus points. We came up short with Zack. If he would have just kept his composure and worked some controls, he would’ve won that match.”
While Owen, one of the Rockets’ first-year wrestlers, lost his individual match, Litchfield liked what he saw from his 145-lb. wrestler over the course of the season.
“I thought he held his own for the first part of the match. It’s the inexperience factor. He decided to start wrestling late in his career. He gives me everything he’s got. I threw him in the fire mid-season.”
Another one of Litchfield’s wrestlers won a big match on Wednesday night.
“Paul will now be our 170 throughout the rest of the year because Christian Milligan will be out. We’re just losing people at the wrong time, and it happens.” Litchfield said. “Paul stepped in and won his first match as a starter. He’s going to be part of a big senior class next year, and I expect him to be in the starting lineup full-time.”
Next up for the Rockets is the Riverside tournament, which kicked off at 8 a.m. in Durham. An away match at Northeast Guilford next Wednesday leads up to the conference tournament at Rockingham on Saturday, Feb. 1. Depending on results, the Rockets could wrestle past the first of the new month.
“Possibly team duals,” Litchfield said. “Depending on if we make state team duals, we’ll either wrestle that Tuesday, or we’d just have a full week of practice. The conference tournament doesn’t play into team duals.”