Eldridge, Meagher place at 4-A state wrestling meet

Published 2:01 pm Monday, February 21, 2022

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By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

High school wrestling wrapped up last Saturday with the NCHSAA individual championships held at the Greensboro Coliseum.

West Forsyth had a pretty successful tournament with junior Aidan Meagher and senior David Eldridge, the lone two wrestlers from the Titans who qualified after the 4-A Central regionals the week before.

Meagher, at 195 pounds, finished fourth, and David Eldridge, at 285 pounds, finished fifth after winning by forfeit over Cary Green Hope’s John Domencic.

“They wrestled well,” Coach Jason Hooker said. “There were instances where things could’ve been a little different, but that’s the state tournament. It’s always like that. David and Aidan wrestled really hard.”

They both lost to defending state champions in the semifinals Friday night — Meagher to Caleb Beaty of Corinth Holders, and Eldridge to Rylan Vann of Cary, who was the two-time defending state champion.

Meagher finished fourth after being pinned by Fayetteville Pine Forest’s Jacob Green at 2:13 in the consolation finals. Meagher reached the third-place match after winning by 14-2 major decision over Pierce White of Wilmington Hoggard.

“After I lost and started wrestling for third, I kind of tricked my mind,” Meagher said. “I tried to make third become first in my head and convince myself I was still wrestling for first. I still needed to wrestle the same way I would have if I had won.”

Eldridge, who also played football at West Forsyth, had a similar state tournament to Meagher. However, Eldridge lost in the consolation semifinals last Saturday morning to Taevion Cox of New Bern after a pin at 53 seconds. It was in stark contrast to last Thursday after Eldridge upended Cox in the first round with a pin at 3:21.

“Even though I lost I’ve got to bring something home,” Eldridge said. “You still got to go out there and win. My senior year. I don’t want to go out with a loss.”

Meagher had to wrestle in the consolations because he lost in the semifinals Friday night to Beaty, who repeated as state champion, after an 8-3 decision. Beaty also happens to be friends with Meagher.

“I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Meagher said. “He’s pretty good, but I knew I could beat him in neutral. I could beat him on top. It was just if he got his legs in, I was going to have a tough time getting them out. And once he got them in, I tried everything I could to get them out.”

Familiarity may have played into the result.

“(Meagher’s) wrestled this guy (Beaty) a bunch of times,” Hooker said. “So, I think that was part of it. It was in his head.”

Meagher won his first match this past Thursday with a 7-1 decision over James Bankston of Durham Hillside. Cruising in his first match Friday morning with a 7-0 decision, Meagher was mesmerized at watching his opponent, Jesse Barrier of McDowell.

“This might sound kind of silly, but when I was getting ready to wrestle the kid I always prepare,” Meagher said. “And then I saw he had a tattoo. Ever since my freshman year when I wrestled somebody with tattoos it kind of freaked me out a little.

“You know, I’m 17, he had a full mustache and tattoo. They check our facial hair and make sure we don’t have anything on our chin before the matches. And if we do, we have to shave. And I haven’t had to shave this whole season.”

Eldridge was leading Vann, but Vann regrouped and won.

“David wrestled the two-time defending champ from Cary, and I think the final score was 8-(3),” Hooker said. “…David had him on the ropes. He had to take injury time, and then took blood time. I think if he doesn’t’t get those rest periods, David’s as good as anybody out there.”

Even though Eldridge lost in the consolation semifinals, he was slated to face Domencic once again. This time, Eldridge, who is the younger half-brother of former West Forsyth girls basketball player and track-and-field star Destiny Griffin, won by forfeit, clinching fifth place.

“To me, I didn’t like it because I wanted to actually wrestle my last match and get a win,” Eldridge said. “It’s a win regardless, but it still didn’t feel the same.”

Fifth place is good, but Eldridge was hoping for more.

“When I’m in wrestling I was looking for that first place. First place. I wanted to be a state champion,” he said. “I worked hard, did what I had to do during the season. It still didn’t turn out the way I wanted.”

“I was proud of him,” Hooker said. “He put it all out there and did everything we asked out there on the mat.”

Eldridge, who has signed to play football at Winston-Salem State, has come a long way in wrestling since being encouraged to come out for the team when he was a team manager on the girls basketball team as a freshman.

“All I did was football all my life since I was 5,” Eldridge said. “Coach Hooker, my freshman year coming in, he asked my sister to talk to me and get me to come out. Ever since I came out, I liked it. Coach Hooker was good, to me he’s a good coach. He taught us how to man up, to be responsible, and hard work.”

“I don’t think he even finished his freshman year,” Hooker said. “He wrestled his sophomore year, and then COVID — he never got to go to a camp or go to any offseason tournaments because he was playing football. I think if he’d been to a couple of those, you never know.

“That what-ifs will get you all the time. I think he wanted to be a Division I wrestler, but he was wanted to play football. He wanted to stay close to home. He’s got a bunch of brothers and sisters who help out at the house a lot. Different circumstances, I think he’s wrestling at App State or Campbell or somewhere.”

Eldridge said that he would miss wrestling.

“I’m going to miss (wrestling),” he said. “(This past Saturday) when I walked out of the gymnasium I almost cried.”

As for Meagher, he’ll be returning as a senior next season.

“My main thing is I need to get better with continuous wrestling,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll hit a move, and I’ll pause for a second before my next move. What I need work on mostly is being able to hit moves back-to-back-to-back without stopping.”

This offseason should help Meagher when practice starts. Hooker wants Meagher to start lifting weights more.

“He lifts some. I’ve had wrestlers that lift every day,” Hooker said. “He’s not ever had to. He’s strong as a bull already.”

Meagher is also already thinking about his next chapter.

“I want to be a vet,” he said. “I have to get my bachelor’s in some sort of animal science. I think I’m going to go somewhere relatively smaller, probably a cheaper school for the first four years and try to transfer somewhere like N.C. State before going to veterinary school.”

With Meagher back, and West Forsyth having such a strong program in wrestling, things look bright next season.

“The thing is, without middle-school wrestling we’re always going to be putting first-year juniors, first-year seniors, first-year sophomores in the lineup,” Hooker said. “As far as being able to compete with teams, their freshmen have wrestled for six years when your juniors and seniors have wrestled for one.

“I think my coaching staff, I think they really work well with these guys and get them good, quick. It’s just we get them good, quick and they’re gone.”