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Among the few losses for the Fike High wrestling team Saturday at its rechristenened early season tournament were the locks of head coach Bradley Watson.
And while the Golden Demons went 5-0 to win the Wickham Duals, formerly the Demon Duals that was renamed for former Fike head coach Mike Wickham, who died in January, the biggest win was the $1,264.63 raised in Wickham’s name for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“Fifty dollars would have been a success but $1,200, nearly $1,300, is above and beyond and I hope we can do something like this next year,” said Watson, sporting his new hairdo.
The fundraiser was a contest and the coach, or designee, from the winning team that garnered the most donations submitted to a hair-removal event in the middle of the Fike gym. Watson’s haircut was performed by several of his veteran wrestlers, including Joseph Speight, Saulo Rodriguez and Aaron Bancroft.
Joining the fun was Washington head coach Martelles Jones, whose dreadlocks were history.
“I don’t know how long it was but I know I’ve been growing it for three years,” Jones said with a grin.
There was no doubt that memories of Wickham were on the minds of many at the nine-team event.
Southern Nash head coach Eddie Coble, whose team went 3-2, said that he had kept every text message Wickham had sent him.
“I actually started reading them the other day, because these duals were coming up,” Coble said.
Fike’s two seniors, Rodriguez and Spright, had especially strong memories of Wickham, who started not only the Demon Duals but also the County Vs. County Challenge when he took over at Fike in 2011.
“He taught me a lot but the number 1 thing I would say that he did teach me was to come out and wrestle every day,” said Rodriguez, who won all five of his matches to improve to 8-0 on the season. “It doesn’t matter what the outcome is but as long as you give it 100 percent and you wrestle your hardest, it doesn’t the matter the outcome, basically.”
Speight, the only Demon to wrestle four years, assured that Wickham “would have been very, very, very proud of us.”
“He taught me a bunch of stuff but he taught me really how to control myself and be better at acting like a man,” Speight said.
With wins Saturday against Wake Forest, Washington, C.B. Aycock and West Johnston, the Demons have gotten off to a 7-1 start despite having four weight classes empty and giving up 24 points in every match.
“I think it went really successfully,” said Watson, who is being assisted again by veteran coach George Bancroft. “I’m just glad everybody had good matches. It was a challenge for us, being 24 points down, but nevertheless, I can’t be any more proud of the guys who stepped up. All of them stepped up because we can’t lose more than three matches and win.”
Watson said that help is on the way. Two wrestlers are sitting out currently for academic and disciplinary reasons while new faces are on the horizon.
“We’ve got four guys taking hydration tests Monday and two of those guys are in weight classes that we need,” he said. “So that’ll be good. We’re actually going to be down just one weight class after that — if we get everything settled just right.”
Mainly for the Demons is that the culture that Wickham started is being continued, Rodriguez said.
“What he has created here at Fike is a family,” Rodriguez said. “Hard work, dedication, passion for the sport has made our guys one of the best (teams) in the state. Coach Bancroft and Coach Brad are always with us, taking time out of their lives to help us develop and grow up as men and wrestlers.”
Coble is out trying to work through an inexperienced roster that lost 2018 North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A tournament qualifiers Zach Coble and Jesus Raya to graduation.
The Firebirds defeated Wake Forest, Roanoke Rapids and North Pitt but lost to West Johnston and Washington, the latter on criteria as the teams finished in a 42-all deadlock. Coble said the Pam Pack had five pins to the Firebirds’ four.
“We really should have been 4-1 today, but, you know, I’ve got a lot of young guys,” he said. “I have lots of young guys!”
C.B. Aycock went 2-2, losing to Fike and Wake Forest and beating Hunt and North Pitt. Hunt dropped all three of its matches as the Warriors lost to Aycock, North Pitt and Roanoke Rapids.