Two Spartans win state titles
Three Union County wrestlers took the big stage at Greensboro Coliseum looking for 3A gold at the 2014 North Carolina State Wrestling Championships last weekend.
Sun Valley seniors Billy Benfield (60-3 final record) and Logan Farlowe (58-0) carried the flag for UC at 138 and 160 pounds, bringing hom state championships, while Weddington sophomore Parker Walton (51-2) worked through the 106 pounders to reach the final.
Benfield and Farlowe extended Union County's streak of at least one state champion over the last six years by bringing home the school's second and third golds in two years — one year after Michael Macchiavello put the Garnet back on the top of the podium one season ago.
Benfield outscored his first two opponents by a combined score of 27-4 to reach the semifinal, where he faced Ryan Davis of Havelock for the right to wrestle for gold.
Benfield shut out the top seed from the East 7-0 to advance to the championship.
In the final, Benfield was matched up with the top seed from the Mideast, Mitchell Dean of Eastern Alamance.
Benfield got the match started strong by recording the first take down just 13 seconds in for a 2-0 lead.
Dean was able to escape with 45 seconds left to enter the second down 2-1.
With his choice Dean chose bottom and tied the match up with an escape 47 seconds into the period.
Benfield recorded a second take down with 45 seconds left in the period and then extended the lead to five with a three-point near-fall with 10 seconds left to enter the final period up 7-2.
Benfield went up 8-2 as Dean chose to allow Benfield up and though he was able to get a take down to cut the lead to 8-4, it wasn't near enough.
"This is a good feeling," Benfield said with the gold draped around his neck. "This is what I trained for my whole life. There are a lot of mixed emotions. I trained all Summer for the past two years and it paid off. I worked hard and became a state champion."
Benfield's match was followed about 45 minutes later by Farlowe, who stepped on the mat at 160 pounds against Jacoby Benjamin of Southern Nash.
Farlowe advanced to the championship match with strong defense.
After dominating his first and second round opponents by a combined score of 32-2, Farlowe found offense tough to come by in the semis with a 3-2 victory over East top seed John Ellis of Havelock.
The championship match wasn't much different.
The first period ended with neither wrestler scoring a point as it seemed Benjamin, the second seed out of the East, didn't want to get too close to Farlowe.
The second period started with Farlowe choosing bottom for the best opportunity to score.
The first point scored was an unexpected one as Farlowe used a little knowledge to dupe Benjamin into a locking hands call 13 seconds into the second period for a 1-0 lead.
Farlowe worked to stand up. Noticing the strong grip Benjamin had, Farlowe dropped quickly to one knee inducing the illegal hold.
Once the wrestling started back, Farlowe was able to work the stand up again, this time scoring an escape with 1:19 left in the period for a 2-0 lead entering the third.
Benjamin escaped from bottom to cut the lead in half but again didn't seem to want anything to do with Farlowe on his feet.
Keeping his distance, Benjamin allowed Farlowe to just sit on his lead in the middle of the mat without a stalling call.
Benjamin finally took a late shot but Farlowe blocked it off and once time expired Farlowe exploded off the ground and into the arms of the Spartan coaching staff as he completed the quest that saw his junior year end with a silver medal.
"It's just weird," said Farlowe, the only UC wrestler to go unbeaten this season. "It hasn't sunk in yet. I was just thinking on the mat that I've got this (stuff). I don't know, I can't talk, I just want to run. I want to run to my parents and around the coliseum."
The run that Farlowe and Benfield had propelled the Spartans to a fifth place finish in the team standings of the tournament.
"This has been fantastic," Spartans coach Sean Greiner said. "Both of them worked their tails off all four years of high school. Bottom line is they wrestled to win. A big thing that contributed was they've been to a lot of national tournaments over the last couple of years. They knew what it meant to wrestle the best. In doing so they are the best in the state."
Benfield and Farlowe had to spend the entire Saturday just thinking about the championship match after wrestling in the semifinals Friday night.
Walton's second trip to the state tournament ended with silver as Walton fell to Logan Durham of South Rowan in the final.
Walton gave up just one point over his first three matches of the tournament, including a 5-1 win over Matthew Insogna of South Iredell in the semis.
That brought Durham, who had defeated Walton for the Midwest title 6-0 just five days earlier.
Durham scored a take down in the first period for a 2-0 lead and extended it to 3-0 with an escape to start the second period.
Walton was one second away from cutting that lead down to one but time ran out just as he sent Durham to his back at the end of the second.
Walton could't find a way up from bottom in the third period. He should be a favorite to win the state championship as a junior.
"I just have to work as hard as I can and use it as motivation," said Walton, who went 0-2 as a freshman at the state tournament. "My bottom game needs some work. My on-feet game also needs some work. It feels great to finish second."