Rocket wrestlers turn attention to regionals

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Rocket wrestling lives on for at least one more weekend.

Even though West Carteret eliminated the Person High School wrestling team from the state team dual playoffs with a 37-35 victory last Tuesday, the Rockets look to send several wrestlers to the regional tournament, which will be held this weekend.

In the Rockets’ playoff matchup against the Patriots, seven wrestlers won their individual matches: 120-lb. Diego Jimenez, 152 Dawson Thibodeau, and 285 Marcus Vincent all won by pin, 195 Zackery Lieske won by decision, 106 Derrick Laycock and 138 Jailin Smith won by major decision, and 145 Dawson Owen won by forfeit.

The final outcome really laid on a razor’s thin edge. “They all went out there really aggressive, which is what I’ve been looking for all year,” said Person head coach Mark Litchfield Jr. “We pushed the pace the entire time. We could have gained four extra points if Laycock and Smith pinned their guys.” Both wrestlers won by major decision. That would have been the deciding factor (in advancing to the second round),” Litchfield said. C.B. Aycock High School ended West Carteret’s season in the second round, beating the Patriots 39-33.

Litchfield likes his chances of sending Laycock (22-18), Payne Garrett (23-18), Jimenez (34-9), Smith (31-13), Thibodeau (38-5), Alex Martinez (19-14), Karson Evans (21-10), Lieske (17-8), Keith Thompson (25-7), and Vincent (31-6) to regionals.

“The actual seed meeting is Wednesday night, so we won’t know for sure until then,” said Litchfield. “They count on your record for seeding purposes. I expect all 10 of those guys to qualify.”

The Rockets fall into the 3A Mideast region. In two days, Person will travel to Cape Fear High School (Fayetteville), the 3A Mideast regional host. Weigh-ins begin at 4 p.m., and wrestling begins at 5:30 p.m. If Rocket wrestlers advance into Saturday, weigh-ins begin at 7:30 a.m., with a start time to be determined.

“Regionals are set up like a double-elimination tournament,” said Reggie Fields, 3A Mideast Regional Wrestling Director. “We will have a winner’s and a loser’s bracket. We’re hoping to get through the first two rounds on Friday, and finish up with championships on Saturday.”

Wrestlers are seeded based on a point system that uses a wrestler’s current winning percentage and state placement or qualification from the previous year. Jimenez has a leg up, as he was the lone Rocket wrestler to qualify for states during the 2019-2020 season.

“They had a pre-seed sheet out on Monday,” said Litchfield. “There’s a lot of things that could change between the pre-seed and the actual seeding on Wednesday. We will know 100 percent on Wednesday.”

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