By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Three Southern Alamance wrestlers and one from Western Alamance became first-time high school tournament champions when the two-day Eagle Invitational wrapped up Saturday at the Mebane Arts & Community Center.
Then there was Western’s Chazz May, a repeat winner in the event.
May joined teammate Cameryn Pettigrew and the Southern trio of Andrew Dudley, Jace Rich, and Luke White as winners in the 35th edition of the tournament. Tournament host Eastern Alamance had two runners-up.
For the first-time winners, these were the kind of breakthroughs they sought.
“I’m very happy and very proud,” said Dudley, who had a title-bout tussle at 150 pounds. “I really like it when I make my dad (Antonio Dudley) happy.”
The younger Dudley, a junior, had two pins and a decision before edging Randleman’s Jesus Garcia 7-5 in the final.
Rich, a 157-pound sophomore, came next and completed a dominating run through the bracket by sticking Drew Young of Northwest Guilford at 3:14 of the title bout. Rich was a past runner-up at the tournament.
“This is a turnaround point, for sure,” he said.
Rich’s 4-0 tournament record all came with pins, including two in first periods. These results pushed his season record to 15-2.
In the meet’s final match, White collected Southern’s third title by winning at heavyweight. The sophomore, who was an offensive lineman for the Patriots in football, checked in at 283 pounds and had a significant size advantage on finalist Jett Giovani of Eastern.
White had a bye and then two pins before meeting Giovani in a spirited clash despite a scoreless first period. White started the second period in the down position and worked free, then turned one move into a pin at 3:17.
That was similar to the maneuver he used to flatten his Eastern opponent a week earlier at the Southern Duals.
It also was a signal of a potential resurgence for Southern, which had been a state power about a dozen years ago. Orange won the 16-team Eagle Invitational team title with 206 points with Southern Alamance the runner-up with 147½.
“Our team has a lot more spirit this year,” White said. “I think our team is on a comeback now.”
Southern coach Rick Willoughby said that’s the goal.
“They’re coming together and showing much improvement as a team,” Willoughby said. “We’re trying to get back there.”
May, who won at 182 pounds last year before a revamping of the weight classes, stuck Jayden Medley of Orange in 37 seconds of the 190-pound final.
“I hit a Granby (a type of move on the mat) and rolled right into a pin,” May said.
It was his fourth pin of the tournament, with three of those coming in the opening minute. He said it took time in recent weeks to return to wrestling mode following football season.
“It was a hard road,” May said. “I’m a totally different wrestler with more conditioning.”
At 215, Pettigrew pinned Western sophomore Essiah Slade at 3:30 of the final. It was a rare matchup of teammates, with the tournament allowing certain additional entries to fill the brackets.
“It feels pretty nice to hold a bracket,” Pettigrew said, showing the hardware depicting the path to the title that was given to the winners along with a medal.
Pettigrew, a senior and also a Western football player, advanced to the final with three first-period pins. Weighing about 190 pounds, he was wrestling up a division.
At 175 pounds, Western’s Zeke May tangled with Orange’s Andre Hill in the title bout. May scored the first four points, but Hill ended up with a 14-10 decision and was later named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler in upper weights. May had reached the final with a technical fall and two pins.
Eastern’s Elijah Watson was second at 113 pounds after using two pins to reach the final. Other runners-up included Southern’s Carson Giannotti (106), Graham’s Oscar Benitez (120) and Williams’ Zy’Aire Priester (132).