WRESTLING: Virgil, Rivera crack top three at Grapple as Wolverines deliver best team showing

Published 12:12 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

The individual finishes at Saturday’s Great Smoky Mountain Grapple meant much to Polk County wrestling coach Thomas Hensley.

Competing against wrestlers from 35 schools in six states, Jadyn Virgil brought home a second-place showing in the 215-pound class. Efrain Rivera took third at 106 pounds, and Jacob Ed (150) and Zalen McCraw (175) each earned fifth-place showings.

But it was the team finish – seventh overall – that most delighted Hensley, seeing Polk County finish ahead of schools such as Newton-Conover, Enka and South Carolina power Dorman.

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“This was our best showing as a school at this event, and I’m really proud of the kids,” Hensley said. “They are working hard and want to represent Polk County to the best of their abilities.

“Obviously, having four guys place was huge. The most we had ever had place before was one. The unsung heroes, though, are the non-placers. Of the 118.5 points we scored, they scored 38 of them. If all of those guys were 0-2, we would have finished 14th or 15th instead of seventh. All great teams have those guys who even though they don’t place, they win big matches and score points for the team.”

Virgil fell in the finals to undefeated Reese Meadows of North Henderson, the only wrestler to whom he has lost this season. Rivera won four matches Saturday, closing with a technical fall over Avery’s Alexandero Ical Tuil.

The Wolverines had eight wrestlers remain alive until Saturday’s second day of action at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville. Six of those eight won at least one match.

“The best is yet to come for the Wolverines,” Hensley said.

Polk County also got to see some of the top 1A programs in the state in action – Avery, Uwharrie Charter, Robbinsville and Alleghany took the top four spots in the team competition.

Polk County is back in action on Tuesday, hosting a four-team meet that will be held at Polk County Middle School. A.C. Reynolds, Forest Hills and Hendersonville are slated to take part in the event beginning at 5 p.m.