by Chris Hunt
Hopewell High’s Nick Watson came as close as you can come to winning a Class 4A wrestling championship last week.
The Titans senior advanced to the 189-pound division finals, but suffered three-point near fall in overtime, losing to Southern Durham’s Teshaun Johnson, 5-2, at the Greensboro Coliseum on Feb. 26.
Watson rode three impressive victories to the championship round. The Titan pinned Raleigh Sanderson’s Phillip Price before defeating Winston-Salem Parkland’s Alex Brunsman, 7-6, and Lake Norman’s Collin Foster, 6-5. Watson became just the second Titan to reach the state finals – the other: Nathan Stanford. No Titan has ever won a state championship.
Days after the tournament, Watson was understandably disappointed with the loss in the finals, yet still was proud of his accomplishments this season. He finished third in the 4A Western regional tournament and accumulated a record of 42-3 in his final season. As a four-year varsity wrestler, Watson amassed 102 victories.
“I wasn’t too happy about the loss,” said Watson. “It’s still a nice feeling to come in second. I’m proud, but not that proud. Losing in overtime makes me feel like I was right there and any one thing could have made the difference. I’d rather lose by a lot then by a little because it makes me second-guess things.”
Watson said he would like to wrestle for a college program next winter. He said he’s spoken with N.C. State and UNC Pembroke recruiters recently, but his future is still up in the air.
“He set a great example for our program in that to be the best you have to train and wrestle year round,” said Hopewell wrestling coach Frank Smithwick. “Nick epitomized that and his success is a direct correlation.”
Watson’s teammate Austin Randall (24-5) also qualified for states at 103 pounds, but lost both his matches. Hough’s state qualifier Adam Nivens (46-13) was another first-round casualty, falling in the 119-pound class. Niven’s teammate Jacob Efird (34-14) also lost in the first round of the 140-pound division but collected a win in the consolation bracket before being knocked out one match later.