The Piedmont Panthers are the North Carolina State 3A Champions again! Piedmont easily took home the 3A crown behind strong wrestling that saw two wrestlers win their division and three
others place fourth in the state.
Led by Coach Jamey Belk, who was named the 3A coach of the year by the NCHSAA just prior to the finals matches, Piedmont cruised past second-place finisher Cape Fear by a score of 107.5 to 96. This is the second consecutive year that Belk and his Panthers have taken the State Individual crown.
Josh Blatt wins 3rd State title
For the 3rd time in his high school wrestling career, Josh Blatt is a State Champion. This time Blatt bested the field in the NCHSAA 3A State tournament at the 132 lbs weight class.
Blatt with his record of 46-2 won by fall over Heath Gonyer (Northern Guilford, 43-2) at the 3:34 mark in the match.
Overcome with emotions after his victory, Blatt shared a hug with his coaches and then sprinted to the corner of the Greensboro Coliseum where he proceeded to scale the walls and jump into the arms of his mother.
This caps off an amazing wrestling career for Blatt who finishes with a career record of 205 wins to only 10 losses. Blatt’s contributions were a key to the Piedmont team victory and coach Belk heaped praise upon Blatt leading up to the State Tournament saying that Blatt was a team leader and coaches dream to work with. Blatt hopes to continue his wrestling career in college and it looks like he will have a very good chance to do just that.
Collins wins 3A wrestling championship for Piedmont
Piedmont Panther sophomore Tripp Collins is the NCHSAA 3A State Champion at the 113 weight class.
Collins with record 59-3, won by decision over Joshua Vega of Carson by a decision of 5-3. The match was scoreless through the first period, but the shifty Collins started to pull away in the second period getting his opponents foot and taking him to the mat. Collins was leading by a score of 4-2 in the third period when the match had to be paused to address some bleeding on Collins’ face. That break gave Collins and Belk a chance to speak, and Collins was never seriously threatened as the match ended.
Collins blew a kiss to his mother in the stands as he was declared champion and sprinted into the arms of his waiting father and coach.
The future sure looks bright for Piedmont as Collins headlines a stable of fantastic underclassmen Panther wrestlers to include Jake Cauble, Colby Locklear, and Baily Wicker all of whom had great runs in the State Tournament.
Huntley, Wicker, and Cauble win 4th at State
When Josh Blatt and Tripp Collins won their State Titles for the Panthers, Piedmont had already won the NCHSAA 3A State Individual team title.
That’s because of the efforts of the other five wrestlers that Piedmont had qualified for the tournament. To have seven wrestlers qualified for the state tournament is a testament to the leadership of their coach Jamie Belk and his commitment to developing every athlete in his charge to their fullest potential.
Nate Huntley had just earned his 175th career win on the first day to the tournament and was a senior leader for the Panthers. Incredibly confident and intense, Huntley looks like a marine sergeant that any soldier would follow. Huntley advanced into the quarterfinals but was knocked out of the winner’s bracket as he tried for the semis. Huntley earned a win over Aden Smith of Forestview by a decision of 9-0 before ending his career as a Panther. After his final match, Huntley was embraced by his coach and the two shared a last moment on the floor. Coach Belk implored Huntley to be proud of his legacy and how much he contributed to the Piedmont Panthers wrestling program. It turns out coach Belk was right because just a day later Huntley’s sacrifice yielded another state title for his school.
Bailey Wicker and Jake Cauble have something in common. Neither Piedmont Panther has had much to eat since before Thanksgiving. I watched Jake Cauble take a pass on turkey at my very own dining table as he sat among family for the holiday meal. In a recent interview, Baily Wicker (dressed in several layers of sweatshirts during a steamy workout) revealed that he had struggled with “making weight” all season. That’s all part of the wrestling way, doing what is needed to keep the Piedmont machine rolling along.
Wicker (junior) and Cauble (sophomore) both advanced into the quarterfinals of the NCHSAA state wrestling tournament this weekend. Each wrestler won one match in the consolation round before being relegated to a fourth-place finish.
Colby Locklear had lost his first match of the tournament but did secure a win in the consolation adding to Piedmonts team total victory.
It was in large part due to these underclassmen’s efforts that Piedmont was able to hoist the State team individual trophy when the dust settled late Saturday night in Greensboro.
The future looks bright for the Panthers as they will return a team full of seasoned wrestlers for the 19/20 season.