State Champs

The Avery wrestling team poses with the spoils of victory, a championship banner and the NCHSAA 1A state wrestling dual team championship trophy. Pictured are wrestlers Zachary Vance, Johnathan Cable, Seth Blackledge, Bradley Parker, Dalton Towe, Lucas Andrews, Joe Jordan, Ethan Shell, River Griffith, Levi Andrews, Jonah Hayes, Tristan Adams and Dakota Hudson.

GREENSBORO — For its entire existence of 51 years, Avery High School athletics has never had the ability to lay claim to a state team championship in any sport.

The school has had past opportunities to hang a championship banner, including in wrestling during the 1992 NCHSAA State Duals, where on Feb. 8 of that year, the Vikings fell one bout short of defeating Dixon High School in Viking Gym for a state title. Eighteen years later, the Avery girls soccer team made it to the 1A state finals match in Raleigh, but came up short to opposing Southwest Onslow.

The third time was indeed the charm, however, as the 2020 1A Wrestling State Duals Championship was won in dramatic fashion by the Big Red as it upended fellow 1A power Uwharrie Charter School by a 35-30 final score before a predominantly red-wearing and raucous rooting crowd of Vikings supporters inside the Fieldhouse at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Saturday, Feb. 8, exactly 28 years to the day following Avery’s previous appearance at the finals of the state duals.

“This community has believed in this program and support has been amazing. These guys have worked so hard and the community embraced them. It has taken everybody to win this championship,” Avery head coach Matthew Dunn said immediately following the Vikings’ clinching of the title. “Everybody from the start of the year has pushed us to do this.”

Avery jumped out to an early lead in the match, scoring the first points as Ethan Shell earned a 19-6 major decision victory over UCS’s Gage Beal at 120 pounds. Teammate Jonah Hayes earned a 6-4 decision win over UCS’s Austin Kennedy at 126 pounds to take a 7-0 lead. The advantage nearly doubled as River Griffith pinned UCS wrestler Byan Lackey in just 28 seconds in the 132-pound class to spot the Big Red a 13-0 lead.

Avery’s Tristan Adams defeated Uwharrie’s Drew Shelton by 13-3 major decision at 138 pounds to give the Vikings a 17-0 advantage before UCS earned its first points of the match, a 9-4 decision victory by Grayson Roberts over Johnathan Cable at 145 pounds to narrow the deficit to 17-3.

UCS earned two more consecutive wins to draw closer. Jerry Jimenez won by 12-6 decision over Avery’s Bradley Parker at 152 pounds to pull within 17-6, then teammate Doug Bowles pinned Avery’s Seth Blackledge at the 160-pound class to draw the match to within five points at 17-12.

Needing to shift momentum, Avery received a boost from Dalton Towe at 170 pounds, who won a hard-fought 4-0 decision over UCS’s Cameron Clark to pull ahead 20-12. Viking teammate Lucas Andrews, who was celebrating his 18th birthday on the mat, gave himself and his teammates the gift of points, as he pinned Uwharrie’s Jamie Bernal in 5:34 to expand the Avery edge to 26-12.

In an exciting bout at 195 pounds, Avery’s Dakota Hudson left it all on the mat in his battle against Uwharrie’s Aiden Carter, but Carter emerged with a pinfall win in the final second of the match to earn six points for his club and slice into Avery’s overall lead.

App State spring practiceBOONE —Appalachian State has been busy since the Mountaineers beat Alabama-Birmingham 31-17 in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21.

Since then, the Mountaineers signed three new incoming freshmen to their roster, including Watauga standout Anderson Castle. App State head coach Shawn Clark has also been busy building a coaching staff that includes former longtime NFL assistant coach Robert Nunn on Feb. 10, who was named defensive line coach on Feb. 10.

The next major item on the Mountaineers’ agenda is spring practice, which begins Feb. 18. Clark feels that the past week’s rain and snow works in the Mountaineers’ favor.

“I think it will be great for us,” Clark said. “We have to play in those conditions in October and November sometimes and we expect to play at home in December. We have to get used to knowing we’ll have to play games in this and that’s in our favor.”

App State announces staff rolesBOONE — The Appalachian State football program released the roles of the Mountaineers’ coaching staff Feb. 11

Shawn Clark is the head coach, while Dale Jones is the defensive coordinator and will coach inside linebackers. Tony Peterson is the offensive coordinator and will coach quarterbacks.

Defensively, Cortney Braswell will coach the outside linebackers. Robert Nunn will coach the defensive line, James Rowe will coach the cornerbacks and Mark DeBastiani will coach the safeties.

Offensively, Nic Cardwell is the offensive line coach, while Justin Watts will coach the tight ends and is recruiting coordinator. Brian Haines will coach the running backs and will also be the special teams coordinator. Pat Washington returns to coach the wide receivers.

App State men’s basketballBOONE — Justin Forrest showed 2,164 fans at the Holmes Center on Feb. 8 why he is second in scoring in the Sun Belt Conference.

He also showed them that he is not afraid to take the big shot with the game on the line.

Forrest hit a 3-point shot with 19.1 seconds left in the game that gave the Mountaineers a 60-57 victory at the Holmes Center. It was Forrest’s lone 3-point basket of the game, and the guard finished the game with 14 points. Forrest also handed out a team-high seven assists.

App State women’s basketballSAN MARCOS, Texas — App State women’s basketball team completed its season sweep of Texas State with a 59-47 win on Feb. 8 in the Strahan Center.

App State (7-15, 4-7 Sun Belt) put on a dominating display of defense, holding Texas State (8-14, 1-10) a season low in points and its second-worst performance shooting just 30.6 percent from the field. The Mountaineers forced the Bobcats to shoot a season-worst 11.8 percent from beyond the arc, going 2-of-17.

Watauga girls’ basketballBOONE — The Watauga girls’ basketball team struggled with Hickory during the first two quarters of their Northwestern Conference showdown at Lentz-Eggers Gym on Feb. 10.

Watauga nearly made it all back. The Pioneers scored 25 points in the third quarter, which was more than double the points they scored in the first half, but it was not enough to catch the Red Tornadoes, who beat Watauga 50-48 on the Pioneers’ Senior Night.

Neither team looked much like they were battling for second place in the conference after the Tornadoes inched to a 7-5 lead. Hickory outscored Watauga 20-6 in the second quarter to take a 27-11 lead on the Pioneers.

But Watauga behind the inside scoring of Chelsi Hodges and additional scoring from Brooke Byrd and Brelyn Sturgill from the outside helped the Pioneers make a run. Hodges scored eight of her 15 points in the third quarter, while Byrd scored seven of her 11 points in the third. Sturgill, who finished the game with seven points, hit two 3-point baskets in the quarter.

Ashe County wrestlingRONDA — The Ashe County Huskies wrestling team headed to Elkin High School Feb. 1 for the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference Tournament, leaving with a second-place team finish and a host of individual placings.

Ashe finished the day with 172 total points, trailing only West Wilkes’ 214. Alleghany finished with 101, Wilkes Central had 100, East Wilkes totaled 84, Starmount walked away with 58.5, hosts Elkin had 54 and North Wilkes finished last with 46.

Ashe County boys’ basketballWILKESBORO — Traveling for the third time in four games, the Ashe County Huskies boys basketball team (7-14) lost to the conference-leading Wilkes Central Eagles (13-7) Friday, Feb. 7. The loss was the Huskies’ fourth in five games.

Almost immediately, the Huskies came under fire from a barrage of threes, with the Eagles deciding to play mostly outside of the arc. Spearheaded by point guard Daylon Banks, the Eagles rushed out to a early double-digit lead.

The Huskies headed into the second quarter down 13-23, but opened the period fast, trying to push their way back into the game. Banks’ hot night continued however, keeping the lead big for the Eagles. A last-second score for the Huskies in transition from Preston Eller made the score 37-26 at the half.

Ashe County girls’ basketballWILKESBORO — The Ashe County Huskies girls basketball team left the cold and snow Friday, Feb. 7 and headed to Wilkes Central for a big conference game with the Eagles. The Huskies (16-5) won the 54-44 contest, spoiling the last home game for the Eagles’ (16-5) seniors.

Early threes from Kenadie Hudler and Audrey Craven helped the Huskies jump out to an 8-3 lead. Craven followed with another three, helping Ashe to a 15-6 lead after the first quarter.

“We came out strong,” head coach Brianna Ashley said. “Audrey came out strong, hit two threes.”

The Eagles weren’t going to go down without a fight. Lead by the two-way play from Erica Wyatt, Wilkes Central pushed their way back into the game, but Ashe held firm. After a late score from Hallie Treva, the Huskies lead 26-19 at the half.

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