First Posted: 1/31/2015
LUMBERTON — With members of the Lumberton wrestling team looking on, Richmond Senior and Pinecrest were in the midst of the final match of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
The Pirates were interested because the outcome of the Patriots-Raiders matchup would determine the playoff fate of all three teams.
After losing to Lumberton earlier in the day, Richmond needed the victory in order to force a tie between the three schools with 4-1 records. If that were to occur, then it would force SEC officials to use a point differential tiebreaker to determine the two teams that would earn the automatic bids into the state 4A dual team playoffs.
Just as they did in the regular-season matchup, the Raiders fell behind in the opening matches. In their win over the Patriots on Jan. 23, the Raiders trailed 26-0 before rallying for a 39-37 win.
This time around, the Patriots jumped out to a 33-0 advantage after the first six matches and held on for a 42-29 victory to claim the conference championship and top seed. The Pirates grabbed second and the final automatic berth. The Raiders would have to wait to see if they would qualify as a wild-card.
“It could be a blessing in disguise,” Richmond coach Earl Nicholson said. “I think it might be an easier draw as a wild-card than if we were the No. 2 seed.”
Pinecrest’s Irvin Enriquez opened the match with a pinfall victory over Gary Blue at 132. Richmond forfeited in the 138-pound division. Jean-Claude Leblanc picked up a pinfall win for the Patriots at 145, defeating Corey Smith.
Conner Patten continued Pinecrest’s winning ways, earning a pinfall victory against Greg Barnes at 152. Ben Pritchett picked up a 5-0 decision over Dominique Everette in the 160-pound weight class. Xavier Cain closed out the solid beginning for the Patriots by pinning Dexter McDonald.
Luke Souder stopped the bleeding for Richmond at 182 with a 7-2 victory over Tanner Kreitlow. Souder nearly pinned Kreitlow at the end of the first period, but time expired before the referee called the match. Pinecrest responded with a decision victory of its own at 195 as Tyler Kreitlow outlasted Joshua Conrad 7-1.
This forced Richmond into a must-win match at 220. A loss of any kind would have clinched the contest for Pinecrest. Antoine Shaw stepped forward to keep Richmond’s hopes of a comeback alive with a 9-1 major-decision win over Cole Mower.
In the heavyweight matchup, David Watkins picked up a pinfall victory against Jalen Burns to trim Pinecrest’s advantage to 36-13 with four contests left in the match.
If Richmond earned pinfall victories in the remaining matches, it would pick up the win. Those dreams came crashing down in the 106 match. Even though Tommy Shelton grabbed a 16-8 majority decision victory over Matthew Garner, it only earned the Raiders four points and wrapped up the win and conference championship for the Patriots.
“What killed us this time was we didn’t get the points we did the first time,” Nicholson said. “We needed to get pins, but we didn’t get them this time and they did.”
With the match in hand, Pinecrest’s Alex Contreras pinned Jose Gomez at 113. Richmond picked up wins at 120 and 126. Bryan Marsh got a pinfall victory over John Bobige at 120 and Trinity Hunt won by forfeit.
Raiders advance into playoffs
The Raiders found out their fate Monday morning when they were one of two teams to earn a wild-card berth into the playoffs.
Richmond will travel to Holly Springs 6 p.m. today for its opening-round contest. The Golden Hawks are a perfect 23-0 on the season, while the Raiders are 24-8. In the other contest, Clayton (11-2) will square off with Leesville Road (35-11).
The winners will battle later tonight for a spot in the third round.
“I’m excited we made it,” Nicholson said. “I’m glad for the guys to see all their hard work paid off. It’s good for them to see what the playoffs are about. We only have two senior starters, so the younger guys get to see it. It will be goal for next year and work toward it.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.