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Albemarle wrestler places second at state finals

The Albemarle wrestling program has a long history of success, including a state championship and the state’s only four-year undefeated wrestler, Mike Kendall. However, the program stopped several years back in the wake of a possible closing of the school.

A long road back to prominence has continued for coach Dustin Foley and the Bulldogs. From winning a dual match a couple of seasons ago to placing wrestlers in the state tournament, this season marked the first in which an Albemarle wrestler had the opportunity to win a state championship.

Junior Adrian Little, who has only wrestled for three seasons for the Bulldogs and did not wrestle prior to that, qualified for Saturday’s state finals in the 1A 195-pound weight class at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Along with the others wrestling in four different classification in their respective weight classes, all were honored prior to the finals by the thousands in attendance for reaching the state finals with the parade of champions as Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played over the public address system.

After a warm-up period, Little had to wait for his match for several minutes as the finals matches started at 160 pounds. He waited through that match and two more, at 170 and 182, before taking the mat. Members of his family cheered in the stands along with other wrestlers and fans from Stanly who stayed after their wrestlers had competed earlier in the day.

Taking on Mount Airy’s John Bennett, Little led on points in the match, but a late take-down led to a pinfall loss with just nine seconds remaining.

The two wrestlers went through a scoreless first period, then Little scored a two-point take-down in the final 30 seconds of the second period.

In the third period, Little (33-3) had the advantage, but Bennett (29-6) broke free of the Bulldog wrestler’s grasp, earning one point for an escape. The referees then awarded a point to Bennett, ruling Little had clasped his hands together, a technical violation. In the final seconds, Bennett got the take-down and led 4-2, pinning the Albemarle junior with nine seconds left in regulation.

Afterwards, Foley talked about how important Little’s season was to the program, noting the past figures in Albemarle wrestling lore like Kendall, who was 153-0 in four seasons, along with the 1992 1A/2A state champs.

He also said leading up to Saturday’s finals, his conversations with Little were less about the state tourney and more about meeting with middle school athletes in the hopes of starting a program at Albemarle Middle School. South and West Stanly, who combined had nine wrestlers qualify for the state tournament, both have feeder programs at their respective high schools.

“It’s a conversation I am interested in having,” Foley said.

The Albemarle coach added Little “did the right things” this season and learned “he can succeed on this stage” with his run to the state finals.

Little reflected on his season, saying he came in and worked out every day, especially working on becoming more of a technical wrestlers. He added throughout the season he “got better at doing the things I can do.”

The junior added listening to his coaches and staying focused mentally also helped this season, saying it’s about “knowing what you can do and what you can’t do.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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