Warriors remember historic season
In the 2013-14 wrestling season, West Caldwell's Jacob Houck etched his name into the history books by becoming the first sophomore in Caldwell County to win a state championship.
"Very few people have the chance to do what Jacob did," West head coach Arex Crooke said. "It is a big accomplishment to win a state championship, let alone win it as a sophomore because he still has two more cracks at winning another one."
Houck dominated the 126 lb. 2A bracket, winning three matches by pin fall and another by major decision. He opened the tournament with a pin fall victory over Franklinton's Alex Loury. Houck then earned an 11-2 major decision over Monroe's RaQuan Neal to set up a match with the defending state champion Stephen Dreher of Carrboro. He pinned Dreher in the second period to advance to the title match. In the title match, Houck faced off with North Surry's Austin Rozier and the bout went to overtime. Houck won the state championship by pinning Rozier 28 seconds into the overtime period.
"I don't really get that excited when I win," said Houck. "But it did feel good.
"The program has gone up a lot in the past few years and that's because of the support of a great coach. Anything we need, he (Crooke) gives us."
While Houck made history in his own way, four other West wrestlers joined Houck in the history books. West Caldwell became the first team in the county to have five placers in the state championships. Grant Barnette, Malik Wiley, Caleb Wooten and Cristian Solis joined Houck to accomplish that feat.
"To have five placers in the state tournament is a testament to the kind of team we had," Crooke said. "They all worked extremely hard in the room (practice gym). They were constantly beating on each other and pushing one another. We just had so many kids going so hard every day. When you get a room like that, it's pretty special."
Wooten took third place in the 182 lb. bracket. Wooten won two matches before falling to eventual state champion Diego Martinez (Ayden-Grifton) in the semifinals. Wooten then defeated Salisbury's Jeffrey Burton in the consolation semifinals. In the third place match, Wooten defeated Carrboro's Carson McKay 10-8.
"I was pretty excited to get third place," Wooten said. "I ran off the mat and jumped on my brother. I felt like all my hard work really paid off."
At 113 lbs., Barnette claimed fifth place. Barnette lost his first match of the tournament to eventual state champion Grant Hall of Croatan. Barnette then won three straight matches to advance to the consolation semifinals, before falling to Newton-Conover's Austin Klutz. In the match for fifth place, Barnette pinned South Granville's Nathean Castillo in the first period.
"It was amazing because I was one match away from placing last year and my goal this year was to place," Barnette said. "All those tough practices just paid off for us."
Cristian Solis also earned fifth place in the 285 lb. bracket. He won his first match by pin fall, before falling in the second match. Solis went on to win his next two matches with a 5-3 overtime decision and a pin fall, before falling to West Lincoln's Andres Gonzalez in the consolation semifinals. Solis then pinned North Lenoir's Keywan Morgan early in the second period to claim fifth place.
"It was a big accomplishment for me to earn fifth place because it was just my first year wrestling," Solis said. "Just going to states was pretty awesome."
The final placer for West Caldwell was Malik Wiley at 120 lbs. Wiley won his first match, before dropping a 5-1 decision in the second round. He then went on to win two more matches in the consolation bracket. Wiley earned a 7-3 decision over Surry Central's Kevin Pack to advance to the consolation semifinals. Unfortunately, he dropped a 6-2 decision in the semis and a 6-4 decision to earn sixth place.
"I only wrestled for two years," said Wiley. "So just being at states was a really great accomplishment for me."
Solis, Barnette and Wiley all graduate this spring. However, Houck, Wooten and the rest of the returning Warriors will be back on their quest for another memorable season.