The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Sports Editor 

Area Wrestlers Prep For State Finals In Greensboro –Brevard NC

 

February 16, 2017

The floor of the Greensboro Coliseum will once again be the setting for the 2017 North Carolina high school individual wrestling championships. The action will take place from Thursday through Saturday and feature the best competition the state has to offer. Seven wrestlers from Transylvania County will compete this week and talked about their thoughts ahead of the state finals. (Times photo by Jeremiah Reed)

After a long season, it all comes down to three days.

Starting on Thursday, wrestlers from all over the state will descend on the Greensboro Coliseum hoping to leave their mark as a state champion.

Seven of those hopeful competitors hail from Transylvania County.

Cody Swangim and Tanner Whitman will represent Rosman – Swangim at 170 pounds and Whitman at 160.

The experience will provide an interesting dichotomoy as Whitman will compete in his fourth state finals, while it will be Swangim's first appearance.

As a sophomore, Swangim narrowly missed qualifying for the state finals.

This year, he took first place at the 1A West regional tournament and amassed a 44-3 record.

Swangim said he developed quite a bit over the ofseason and is glad to see it all pay off.

"I put in a lot of work over the offseason, wrestling in some national tournaments. So when school came around I was ready for it. I've made a big improvement from last year to this year and I've got my goals set higher. I'm excited and very motivated to make it to the state finals," he said.

As for Whitman, his journey to Greensboro was jeopardized after he suffered a foot injury during the Smoky Mountain Conference tournament.

The injury forced him to forfeit the championship match and left him with two weeks to heal up before regionals.

"It was rough," Whitman said. "I only got to practice one time between conference and regionals. I rode the bike a little bit. I couldn't really jog."

Luckily, his foot healed and he went on to place second in the 160-pound division.

That set up his fourth trip to the state finals and could set up a rematch with a familiar opponent – Cherokee's Anthony Toineeta, who defeated Whitman in the championship match at regionals.

The two have faced each other several times in their careers.

Whitman said he expects to see Toineeta down the road and has a new strategy he hopes will deliver him the victory.

"I'm going to try and beat him on his feet if I see him again," Whitman said. "I'm not going to get on the bottom at all, I'm just going to try and stand the whole match."

The Brevard Blue Devils are sending five to Greensboro – three of whom made it to the 2A West regional finals.

Tanner Ellenberger earned a top seed at the state finals after taking first in the regional 220-pound class.

That victory not only gave him his first regional title, it also marked his 100th career victory.

"If felt good for everything to come together," Ellenberger said. "This week, I'm just trying to stay hungry going into state."

Ellenberger said the focus in Greensboro was just to wrestle his match and dictate the pace.

Last year he competed at state in the 195-pound division. He said the bump up one weight class wasn't a hard transition and actually had its benefits.

"The good thing about it is I don't have to worry about cutting weight. I weigh in right around 215, so I get to eat, which is good," he said.

Logan Roth is one of the other two Blue Devils who made it to the regional finals.

Roth, who wrestles at 160 pounds, suffered his first loss of the season during that match, falling by a 5-4 decision.

While it was tough to lose such a tight match, Roth said he made it a point to enjoy the experience and also learned some valuable insight into his opponent.

"Obviously, it wasn't enjoyable losing, but I just saw it as a growing experience. I really wanted to enjoy the day since it was my last time at regionals. I learned about my opponent. He's going to be my toughest opponent and I plan on seeing him in the state finals," he said.

Roth was forced to miss almost his entire junior season with a neck injury after coming in runner-up at the state finals in 2015 in the 132-pound division.

Despite the setback, Roth said he didn't dwell negatively on missing his junior year, but took the time to re-evaluate his life outlook and came back with a different perspective.

"I really got away from the sport for a while and focused on some other things that I felt made me a better person. When I came back I was happier and had a more open mind, so this year has been about having a good time. I've got the same expectations. I want to win state – I cannot walk away without a state title," he said.

Cole Galloway also placed second at the regional tournament in the 126-pound division.

Galloway makes his second trip to Greensboro after qualifying last year in the 120-pound division.

He won the first two matches at regionals via pinfall before earning an 8-7 decision in the semifinals.

Galloway said it was a tough road, with the semifinal match requiring a late comeback.

"That was a tough match that I won in the last 14 seconds of the match. I was losing by one and got a takedown to move ahead by one," he said.

In the finals, Galloway said at one point he checked the score and saw it read "10-4" but it was actually closer, as several points Galloway scored were incorrectly awarded to his opponent.

He described the finals match as a "war to the end" and while he came up short, he was happy with his performance.

"After that match and I walked off the mat, my coaches said that's some of the best wrestling I've done all year and I felt good about it," he said.

The final two state qualifiers for Brevard are Daniel McJunkin (152 pounds) and Keenan Hawkins (170 pounds).

McJunkin won his first two matches before falling in the semifinals. After moving to the consolation bracket, he won one match to advance to the third-place match.

There he lost via a second round pinfall.

McJunkin said the regional competition provided some great experience and areas to improve on headed into Greensboro.

"I'll need to focus on keeping my hands low. Kids at the state level are quicker and really athletic, so they're going to be able to shoot on me more than regionals. I'll also have to watch out for kids riding legs," he said.

McJunkin said he would face some competition he's seen before at state, but feels his past experience in other tournaments is beneficial.

"I've been to the Holy Angels twice and some people have said that's actually harder than the state competition. So I feel like I'm prepared," he said.

Hawkins had arguably the toughest road at regionals to the state finals.

He won his opening match before falling in the quarterfinals and moving into the consolation bracket.

From there he ran the table, scoring three straight decision wins to advance to the third-place match.

He lost via pinfall in the second round, but acknowledged that making it so far in the tournament against top-notch competition was a tough battle.

"It was really a struggle," Hawkins said. "The guy that beat me in the quarterfinals is a stud and I just had to fight my way back. I was also a six seed so I was wrestling all these tough guys."

Moving forward, Hawkins said the regionals gave him some good experience and gave him things to look out for in Greensboro.

"I really just have to stay moving and wrestle my match. I can't slow down and can't let anybody get ahead of me," he said.

(Editor's Note: The Transylvania Times will provide regular online updates during the state finals. A full wrap-up of the action will appear in Monday's edition.)

 
 

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