Piedmont is at the top of the mountain. The Panthers’ wrestling team beat Orange 29-27 to win the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A dual team state championship Saturday, Feb. 4. Piedmont finished the season with a 30-1 record and won the school’s second state title in four state championship appearances.
The Panthers raced out to a 17-8 advantage before Orange came back to take a 27-17 lead. Piedmont won the last three matches to take the crown.
Junior heavyweight Luis Oropesa fought hard to beat Daylen Alston, 15-5, in a critical match. However, the turning point came when sophomore Nate Huntley emerged victorious in the 113-pound weight class when he defeated Mitchell Askew 6-5. Sophomore Colby Funderburk finished the deal when he beat Noah Davis 17-2.
“Both of them (Oropesa and Huntley) had weight on their shoulders, and they came through,” Belk said. “They’re a family. It’s one of those where they could have quit and hung their heads, but they kept fighting for each other. They didn’t give up and didn’t let each other down.
“We always break it down into three different goals. Our first goal is always to win conference, because if you don’t win conference there’s nothing else. After that, win regional. That was our second goal. Our ultimate goal every year is to win a state title. That’s the way I focus with these guys. That’s the way they need to set their goals to.”
All 14 of the Panthers’ starters qualified for the individual regional tournament Feb. 10 and 11 at Piedmont. Belk said he’d love to have all 14 qualify for the individual state championships, but realistically Piedmont could have 10 to 11 wrestlers advance if they do well.
The state championships will take place Feb. 16 to 18 in Greensboro.
“I just want to thank all the assistant coaches,” Belk said. “Those are the guys who put the work in and do all the little things to make it possible for us to be successful.”