Laney wrestling eager for another chance at dual team state title

·3 min read
Laney’s Corey Pollock is one of many seniors on the Buccaneers' roster entering his final chance at bringing home the school's first dual team state title.
Laney’s Corey Pollock is one of many seniors on the Buccaneers' roster entering his final chance at bringing home the school's first dual team state title.

The Laney wrestling team reached the mountaintop last June, ending a 29-year drought and winning the second state championship in program history. Laney scored the most points in the individual tournament thanks to a first-place finish from Mark Samuel, while Daniel Shoaf and Devon Bell were runners-up.

But there is another peak still in Laney's sights. The Buccaneers have never won a dual team state championship, and the NCHSAA elected to cancel its team tournament last school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laney will begin its title charge Monday night in the first and second rounds of the 4A Dual Team Tournament, with the state championship scheduled for Feb. 5. The Buccaneers don't take what they accomplished last year for granted, but there's a feeling of unfinished business throughout the program.

"It was a little bittersweet over the summer," Laney head coach Andre Adams said. "We want to win in the Coliseum. We want to win the duals and the individual tournaments with everyone there and leave no doubt."

Laney's Mark Samuel (middle) poses with head coach Andre Adams (left) and assistant coach Leonard Harrison after winning the NCHSAA 4A 120-pound weight class state championship.
Laney's Mark Samuel (middle) poses with head coach Andre Adams (left) and assistant coach Leonard Harrison after winning the NCHSAA 4A 120-pound weight class state championship.

The Buccaneers enter the postseason with an 11-1 record. They cruised to another Mideastern Conference title, with local opponents forfeiting many individual matches throughout the season.

More: Why have there been so many forfeits in Wilmington high school wrestling?

Laney's one blemish was a 48-28 loss to Pinecrest back in December. The Buccaneers were without three starters and lost one match due to injury. The Bucs and Patriots should meet again with much more on the line next week.

Samuel, a two-time defending state champion, is Laney's most dominant wrestler with a 31-0 record. Bell is also undefeated at 29-0.

With those two at the top, Laney boasts one of the deepest and talented rosters across the state. Lucas Cotto, Jayden Harrison, Avery Buonocore, Noah Thomas, Tristan Cotto, Owen Harshbarger, Alex Hopper, Trystan Richardson and Corey Pollock have all won at least 80 percent of their matches.

The Buccaneers had four winners and eight wrestlers finish inside the top-five of their respective weight classes at the WRAL Invitational, one of North Carolina's premier high school tournaments. They've also recorded team victories at the Holly Angels and Jolly Roger Tournaments.

"It's been great to get those big-time tournaments back for our guys. We didn't have them last year during COVID," Adams said. "It's great preparation for both the individual and dual team playoffs."

This year also serves as the last chance for the talented seniors on the roster to bring home a dual team title. When these seniors were freshmen, Laney fell to Northwest Guilford 33-27 in the 2019 state championship, with the match coming down to the final bout.

That sour taste remains in the mouth of Pollock, who is determined to finally wash it away with the sweet taste of a dual team title in early February.

"Only the seniors on this team know what it felt like to lose that match," Pollock said. "It's our job not to let it happen again and keep everybody focused on what we need to do."

Reporter Jackson Fuller can be reached at Jackson.Fuller@StarNewsOnline.com or 910-343-2262.

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Laney wrestling embarks on state title journey Monday