HILLSBOROUGH — Rodney Shepard is one of those wrestlers who is so fast you might actually believe he could flip off the light switch and be in bed before the room gets dark, and the Northern star breezed through the Jim King/Orange Invitational Tournament to win the 152-pound title Saturday.
His highly anticipated final bout against Granville Central’s Nathan Bizzell ended up a fizzle, with Shepard scoring an impressive 18-9 major decision.
The interesting twist to the bout was that the two had traded wins and losses previously and are friends and teammates on the Cardiac Kids wrestling club in Hillsborough.
“I didn’t want to let it get in my head that I’ve wrestled him before and that he might know what I do,” Shepard said. “I was just focused on myself, try to get my takedowns, get my shots off and score a lot of points.”
And score a lot of takedowns is exactly what he did. Shepard used a crowd-pleasing, greased lightning duck under to repeatedly stymie Bizzell, then let the Granville Central opponent up only to take him down again.
“Nate knows, and I know, we’re friends off the mat, but once we get on there it’s all business and we put the two aside,” Shepard said. “He’s a good partner to train with in practice, but when we get on the mat it’s every man for himself.
“I know every time I wrestle him I’m going to get his best shot, so I have to be prepared for that.”
Cary was crowned king of the mat after a two-year hiatus at the tournament, grabbing three first-place medals from among its six finalists and placing 10 grapplers in all.
Newcomer Northwest Guilford also placed 10 wrestlers at the prestigious 22-team event but had only three finalists and one champion to finish a close second in the team race. Host Orange had three champions, placed seven and finished third, while Northern had two champs and six place winners to finish fourth.
Other local teams that placed wrestlers were Jordan, with one champ, a runner-up and six place finishers; Durham School of the Arts, one champ among its four placers; Roxboro Person, Riverside, and East Chapel Hill, three each; Northwood and Cedar Ridge, two; and Granville Central, one.
“We always want to open up the season with the Orange tournament; it’s tough,” said Taylor Cummings, now in his third year as Cary’s coach. “We didn’t win it the last two years (when Orange won).”
Southern Alamance wrestler Jake DeAngelo, whose wrestling rich family includes his coach and father, Randy, and several brothers, was named Most Valuable Wrestler for the tournament. He knocked off Alex Ynoquio of Cary in the 132-pound final, after Ynoquio upset 2012 4A 120-pound state champion Austin Jamison of Northwest Guilford in the semi-finals.
“This is really something special, so I’m glad to have it,” DeAngelo said of adding to his trophies. “I made a stupid mistake last year and when I got to the finals this year I wasn’t going to make it again.”
At 106, C.J. Kinnerly of Leesville Road decisioned Joe Scott of Orange 6-4. With the score knotted 3-3 in the third period, Scott gambled on his takedown prowess by letting Kinnerly escape in hopes of getting a takedown to go ahead. But it was Kinnerly who scored, stuffing Scott’s fireman’s carry attempt, throwing in a leg and then a cradle to score his winning points.
Northern’s state 4-A runner-up Josh Brown eked out a 2-1 win at 113 over James Daggett. Brown took him down with a double leg in the first period, Daggett escaped, and there was no further scoring in the bout.
Carlos Alvarez of Cary squeezed by Tristan Dean of Northwest Guilford, 3-1, at 120, Will Clark of Cary had a major decision over Robbie Tomasic of Jordan, 9-0 at 126; and Jack Twomey-Kozak of Orange defeated Justin Huntsinger of Eastern Alamance 9-1 at 138.
At 145 Anderson Pope of Orange pinned Marcus Shoemaker of Northwest Guilford in the third period, using a banana split to spread his opponent’s legs as far as the east is from the west.
David Peters Logue of Orange followed with a 17-2 technical fall of Millbrook’s Chris Williams at 160, and at 170 Josh Sawyer of DSA decisioned Jacob Scarlett of Eastern Alamance, 8-4.
Tyrece Jones of Jordan decked Franklin McNamera of Cary in the first period at 182 and Gary Whitaker of Riverside won a bruising 9-6 win at 285 over Dadrian Saunders of Eastern Alamance.