The Person High School wrestling team is coming off one of its most successful weeks of the season, beating McMichael 57-18 in a road dual last Wednesday, and Douglas Byrd and Apex by identical scores of 57-21 in a quad match on Friday.
In the McMichael dual, Person got off to a fast start, as the Rockets won their first three individual matches. Derrick Laycock, at 106, and Payne Garrett in the 113-lb. class both won by forfeit, while Diego Jimenez pinned Jamarian Nash at 120.
McMichael’s Lamar Carter pinned Steven Crabtree to give the Phoenix their first six points of the dual, but shortly after, Jailin Smith and Landen Lemaire pinned their opponents to push the score to 30-6 in favor of Person. McMichael won the next two matches to close the gap to 30-18, but that is as close as the host team got.
“Those guys came out and wrestled really hard,” said Rockets head coach Mark Litchfield Jr. “We had a couple issues with the scales that forced Dawson Thibodeau and Alex Martinez to sit out. We were still able to manage and come out with another conference win. Everybody competed hard. We were able to get a pretty one-sided win.”
The Person wrestlers carried that momentum into Friday night against Douglas Byrd, a match that was part of the quad hosted by Chapel Hill High School. The Rockets got off to another fast start in their meet against the Eagles, as Laycock, Garrett, Jimenez, Patrick Anderson, and Jailin Smith all won their individual matches to put Person up 30-0. Laycock, Garrett, and Smith won by pin, while Jimenez and Anderson won by forfeit. Douglas Byrd responded with 12 straight points, but it was not nearly enough for the Fayetteville school, as Person pulled away with victories by Thibodeau, Martinez, Christian Milligan, Karson Evans and Zackery Lieske.
Next up for the Rockets was a contest against Apex. Person took another 30-0 lead before the Cougars responded with six points. The Rockets scored nine straight points to push the lead to 39-6, but Apex responded with nine of their own to make it 39-15. Person extended the lead to 51-15, before the Cougars made it 51-21, then the Rockets closed out the match with a Marcus Vincent victory by forfeit.
“I started to see the guys try some things in live matches that we go over in practice,” said Litchfield. “They’re starting to move and flow a little better. You can see they’re starting to understand positions a little more.”
Friday night was not all rainbows and butterflies for Person wrestling, as they fell to Chapel Hill 51-24. After the Tigers took a 12-0 lead, Jimenez won his match against Porter Brice to make the score 12-3. Jimenez started a scoring streak for the Rockets, as Anderson, the next Person wrestler, pinned Diego Reveles to make it 12-9, and Jailin Smith won a decision against Bao Dinh to tie the score at 12. After Landen Lemaire and Dawson Owen dropped their matches, Thibodeau pinned Tha Hsu to make the score 24-18. Unfortunately for Person, Chapel Hill would rattled off 27 straight points to snag the victory.
“They are what we thought they were going to be,” Litchfield said of Chapel Hill. “They have great coaches, a number of guys. They wrestled really well. I though we wrestled well, but those guys have a little more experience. We didn’t take that loss too hard, which I was pleased with.”
The Rockets had a quick turnaround, as they wrestled conference rival Northern Guilford last night.
“We need to continue to be aggressive going forward,” said Litchfield. “Don’t give the opponent anything. You follow through on your shots, and don’t stop until you get what you’re looking for. They’re (Northern Guilford) well-coached, they have great offense and defense. It’s going to be a hard-fought match. I can’t say what the outcome is going to be, but I know how good both teams are.”