LITTLE ROCK --Bentonville High bucked a recent trend and claimed their second consecutive Class 6A-7A state wrestling title on Saturday night in the Jack Stephens Center.
The Tigers fell short the last couple of weeks, finishing second at Dual State and the Big West Conference tournament. But they saved their best for last.
This time Bentonville was too much for Springdale Har-Ber, which won Dual State and the Big West title, with 245 points. Bentonville West also used a big final round to take second with 224 and leave Har-Ber third at 223.
Bentonville became the first team in the last four years to not win the dual state title but win the state tournament.
But Bentonville coach James Rappe said illness and injuries kept his team from being at its best the past few weeks, but that changed this weekend.
"We came in after the conference tournament and I know some people thought we were gonna be down," Rappe said. "We were just getting everything ready to go. We had our plan. We knew what we were going to do. Just bottom line, we presented a plan of action and how we wanted to execute it and the boys executed it.
"We had guys step up all around. Raphael Marascio winning that match against Brad Brown was huge. Josiah Scates winning against the guy from Little Rock Central and getting into the semifinals. Zane Sims winning some huge matches. I've been preaching to them since I got here, it's about the team, the team."
Senior Cash Jones (170) and Zane Sims were the Tigers' lone state champions. Jones finished 62-1 and undefeated against in-state competitions to win his third state title, while Sims, a junior, won at 138. But they had 12 of 14 wrestlers medal and that was how they won the team title, Jones said.
"Quinn Graves, he wrestled so well," Jones said. "Gabe Holley bumped up a weight class and got that medal. Everyone's just doing what they're supposed to do. There's more to a teach than state champions. The foundation's where it's at. You can't win a team championship with one state champion.
"You've got to have a whole bunch of guys willing to go out and battle on the backside to place."
Har-Ber stayed close to Bentonville throughout most of the tournament, but West put five into the finals and came away with three state champions and overtook the Wildcats for second.
Freshman Jake Adams (120), Daryl Easterling (126) and senior Stephen Fox (132) brought home state titles for the Wolverines. Fox earned 6A-7A Outstanding Wrestler honors for the middle weights and West coach Aaron Wise was named the Coach of the Year for the large schools.
Wise had confidence in his team when others were counting the Wolverines out of the team race.
"I knew that everybody else thought it was a two-team race and we didn't get any respect," Wise said. "I knew that was wrong. The reason why I know is I know how much my kids worked and I know we challenged ourselves and went to a lot of tough tournaments.
"We were teaching them how to wrestle and how to win the tough matches, so I knew when we came here we were going to be ready to do."
The Wolverines will likely be back, too. They had just two seniors in their lineup this weekend. Fox's brother, Walker, had been in the lineup most of the year, but missed the postseason with an injury.
But losing Fox is a big loss, Wise said.
"Walker will probably fill in that spot where Stephen was and those points, but the biggest thing we'll lose from Stephen is just the leadership. He's been such a great kid. It's hard just to call him a team captain. I look at him as more of an assistant coach the way he's brought these kids together and helped us grow as a program. That's gonna be the hard thing to replace."
Har-Ber put five wrestlers into the state finals, but only Trevor Davis came away with a state title. The freshman, who was the top seed, won at 113. Har-Ber coach Eric Nolan had no comment following the tournament.
Rogers Heritage's Chance McCrary and Rogers High's Jake Turner joined Jones as a repeat state champion. McCrary won at 160, after taking the title at 152 a year ago. Turner won at 145, after winning the title at 138 last season.
Sports on 02/18/2018
Print Headline: Bentonville High claims second straight Class 6A-7A state wrestling title