Rivera’s championship leads Polk wrestlers at Mallard Creek tourney

Published 12:16 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2023

It felt a bit Friday like Christmas came early for Polk County wrestling coach Thomas Hensley.

Everywhere he looked at the Elizabeth Barry Memorial at Mallard Creek tourney, a Wolverine was faring well – and doing so against wrestlers from much larger schools.

Jadyn Virgil and Zalen McCraw claimed third-place finishes. Amon Villarreal grabbed a fourth. Styler Blackwell and Brody Wolfe had sixth-place showings.

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And the star of the day, freshman Efrain Rivera, recorded a pair of pins Friday to win the 106-pound class.

Happy holidays indeed.

“I’m really proud of this group,” Hensley said. “Walking into a tournament with 37 other schools largely from the Charlotte and Greensboro area, it is always nerve-racking to see how you’ll do. These guys stepped up and delivered a great performance.

“Efrain Rivera was the talk of the town after people saw how dominant he was. Zalen McCraw losing in the first round and coming back for third was very impressive. Jadyn Virgil is Mr. Consistency, proving he is one of the top 215s in the state. Amon Villarreal is becoming a fixture in the medal rounds. He is opening a lot of eyes. Brody Wolfe and Styler Blackwell both taking sixth proves the great work they are putting in.”

Those wrestlers helped push Polk County to a fourth-place showing as a team, trailing only Trinity, Porter Ridge and Mallard Creek.

“We will continue to improve and put Polk County on the map,” Hensley said.

The Wolverines are next slated to be in action on Dec. 30, traveling to Patton for the 2023 Panther Duals.