MONROE – CATA coach Mike Jacobus has spent more than a decade at the school churning out top-level individual wrestlers, but on Feb. 16 the only coach the Cougars have ever known got to raise the NCHSAA 2A title high above his head after his team stormed past the competition.
The title was the first team title in 2A sports and the first team title since the 2011 girls soccer team won the 1A title.
But the win was more special than it being the first in a while for Jacobus.
“It has been a long time coming,” he said. “I started the program 12 years ago and I’ve always had one goal in mind. I wanted this to be a state championship program and now we are. We also feel like we’re in good shape to continue to have success at the state level, so that is a really good feeling.”
The Cougars got two individual champions in 160-pound senior Cade Haynes and 106-pound freshman Kyle Montaperto.
“Cade Haynes has wrestled his whole life,” Jacobus said. “He finished second last year and whenever you get that close, you definitely want it for him. He’s a four-year starter and our career wins leader. He set that mark at regionals, so he’s been a top guy for four years. Nobody deserved it more than him and he was able to reach his ultimate goal in the sport. I’m really happy for him.”
Montaperto is one of the leaders of the future. The freshman was sensational all year, finishing with a 48-1 rookie record.
“He’s the most dominant wrestler in 2A no doubt,” Jacobus said. “He’s pinned or tech falled every top 10 kid in his weight class. His only loss came 6-4 to a nationally ranked wrestler. He has huge goals, and this is just a stepping stone for him.”
Wrestling at 152 pounds, freshman Aiden Curry went 45-4 and finished second in his first year on the mat.
“He’s got big-match experience, but for him to put on a performance like that in a weight class dominated predominantly by juniors and seniors is incredible,” Jacobus marveled.
Another freshman, Brady Ross, placed fourth at 132 pounds and was among the nine qualifiers and seven individual placers the school produced at this year’s championship.
CATA’s school resource officer had joked to Jacobus that if the Cougars were to win, there’d be a police escort waiting for him to bring the bus back to the school. But, when the bus pulled into the school, four patrol cars escorted it to awaiting fans and parents as the CATA wrestlers celebrated onboard.
Winning the program’s first title is reason enough to celebrate, but Jacobus thinks this program is set up to be a major player for years to come.
“I’ve kind of had this dream and thought we could get to this point, and to do it is amazing,” he said. “And I feel like we’re set up to be a player in 2A for a while.
“This is all about a year-round effort. That’s basically what’s got us to this point with all of the work they put in during the offseason, all of the training and wrestling at different clubs and everything. That’s what’s made this possible.”
Below are the county’s 2A placers:
• 106-pounds – Kyle Montaperto (Central Academy, 48-1 record) won by tech fall over Eli Thomas (Forbush, 42-3) to finish first.
• 120 – Hunter Ross (Central Academy, 48-6) won in sudden victory – 1 over Carson Goins (West Stokes, 42-7) to place fifth.
• 126 – Preston Scarborough (Central Academy, 41-7) won by decision over Andrew Holden (North Lincoln, 41-11) to place fifth.
• 132 – Gage Peters (South Granville, 44-5) won by decision over Brady Ross (Central Academy, 35-5). Ross finished fourth.
• 138 – Jake Dodson (Central Academy, 36-6) won by decision over Lukus Ferguson (R-S Central, 47-10) to finish third.
• 152 – Nathan Hull (West Lincoln, 46-3) won by disqualification over Aiden Curry (Central Academy, 45-4). Curry placed second.
• 160 – 1st Place Match – Cade Haines (Central Academy, 49-4) won by fall over Justin Guy (Bartlett Yancey, 51-5) to finish first.