by Cliff Mehrtens

CORNELIUS – Hough High’s wrestling team won the I-MECK 4A conference dual-team championship, the team title at the conference tournament and had three individual champions.

That’s a lot of momentum heading into the regional and state meets.

Hough was 23-2 in dual-team meets heading into the N.C. 4A playoffs on Feb. 12. The Huskies won the conference championship with a 7-0 record against I-MECK 4A teams. Hough won key matches against Lake Norman (36-27 score) on Jan. 31 and against Mooresville (47-24 score) on Jan. 29, then clinched the conference title with a 51-21 romp against Mallard Creek on Feb. 6.

The Huskies had three individual champions at the conference tournament, which they hosted Feb. 8 – Sebastian Barreto (160-pound division), Palmer Maples (170) and Austin Newell (195).

Hough won the team scoring title at the tournament with 204 points, followed by Lake Norman (186.5) and Mooresville (138.5). Hough had second-place finishes by Austin Powell (106), Hunter Owens (132), Tanner Russ (138), Adam Nivens (145), Jacob Efird (152) and Connor Brooks (285).

Other I-MECK 4A conference champions included North Mecklenburg’s Jalen Hill (132); Mooresville’s Sam Crisp (106), Jarred Brooks (152) and Dontrez Patterson (182); Vance’s Josh Motsinger (138); Lake Norman’s Conner Kominek (113), Cody Karns (120), Eddie McGrail (145), Jackson Dowless (220) and Brendon Latham (285); and West Charlotte’s Antonio Patterson (126).

The N.C. 4A West regional individual tournament will be Feb. 22-23 at Hough. Qualifiers and seedings will be determined by each wrestler’s won-loss record.

The state wrestling tournament will be at Greensboro Coliseum on Feb. 28-March 2.

• Hopewell didn’t have the necessary depth to fare well in dual-team competitions this season (3-20 record), but the Titans have two individual standouts. Gore Vaughn (182) finished second at the conference tournament and has a 20-3 record. Deshjion Whitlock was runner-up at 195 pounds in the I-MECK 4A tournament. He’s 22-8.

• North Mecklenburg’s Hill improved to 43-12 by winning the conference title at 132 pounds. He won a 4-2 decision against Hough’s Hunter Owens in the final, to avenge a loss in their dual-team meeting last month.

• SouthLake Christian’s Sam Bryant is ranked 11th nationally by National Prep Wrestling in the 162-pound division and teammate Brian Jones is 11th nationally at 197 pounds.

Bryant, a defending state champion, is 31-0 headed into the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Championships on Feb. 15-16 in Asheville.

Jones is 30-2. He and Bryant are among four wrestlers included in the National Prep Wrestling rankings. The National Prep Wrestling Tournament will be hosted by Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., on Feb. 22-23.