Trinity’s Hardister knocks off champ on way to title

Trinity’s Gavin Hardister reacts after defeating Matthew Cranfill of Bandys to win the 215-pound state title in Class 2-A . (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

GREENSBORO – Gavin Hardister had to defeat a defending state champion along the way, but the Trinity wrestler largely dominated the rest of the Class 2-A field at 215 pounds on the way to a state championship.

The Bulldogs senior finished it with a 13-5 decision against Bandys senior Matthew Cranfill in Saturday’s final at the Greensboro Coliseum.
His toughest match: Against another wrestler from the Piedmont Athletic Conference.

Trinity had seven wrestlers with top-six finishes in the three-day tournament, though Hardister was the lone champion. He’s the school’s first titlist since 2022.

Also in Class 2-A, Trinity’s Spencer May was a runner-up for the second year in a row and Wheatmore’s Trey Swaney and Dominic Hittepole also finished in second place.

Trinity was the team runner-up with 133½ points behind Seaforth (136). Earlier in the month, the Bulldogs defeated Seaforth in the dual-team state final.

Hardister won by pin against Carlos Urbina of West Caldwell before taking out defending state champion Jose Flores of Southwestern Randolph by a 5-4 decision in the quarterfinals.

There was no more drama for Hardister (46-1). He controlled West Lincoln’s Camden Sain for an 18-6 semifinal romp

At 120, May lost the title bout by 5-2 to undefeated Josh Miller of Seaforth after three convincing victories.

May (55-3) began with two first-period pins, flattening North Pitt’s Alden Harrington and Newton-Conover’s Phoenix Michaud. He drubbed Burns’ Kaden Shoup 15-2 in the semifinals.

Lawson Coltrane was third at 165, winning five consecutive bouts after falling to West Wilkes’ Holt Hanchey by 11-6 in the first round.

Coltrane (53-10) got roiling by pinning Seaforth’s Alex Hinchman in the second period – just as he did to clinch the Class 2-A dual team state championship for the Bulldogs earlier in the month. Coltrane kept it going by pinning Hayden Zeagler of South Lenoir in the third period, securing a 5-2 decision against Wilkes Central’s Elijah, beating West Stokes’ Samuel Ramos 5-4 and holding off Lincoln Charter’s Jack Casey 1-0.

Trinity’s Jaden Allred (52-9) placed fourth at 138. He pinned his first two foes, sticking Rutherford-Spindale’s Cameron Crawford in the first period and Ayden-Grifton’s Jermarion Folks in the third period before he was pinned by eventual champion Boedi Kirkland of Newton-Conover. From there, Allred had a 6-0 victory against Black Mountain Owen’s Fisher McPherson and a 4-2 setback to Southwest Onslow’s Jensen Miller.

At 132, Levi Dennis (53-3) was fifth for the second year in a row. Dennis fell 4-2 in overtime to North Wilkes’ Simitrio Hernandez in the quarterfinals after opening with a 13-9 triumph against Eden Morehead’s Jazay Millner. He won by technical fall against Davon Marble of Shelby in his first consolation-bracket bout before an 8-2 victory against Seaforth’s Maddock Cody. But an overtime defeat to Northeastern’s Corey Fazekas sent him to his final bout, where he pinned East Surry’s Michael Fischer in 4:57.

Trinity 144-pounder Bear Schaefer (54-6) was fifth. It began by nipping Randleman’s Jesus Garcia 4-3 and controlling Southwest Onslow’s Ashton Shields-Adams for a 15-5 decision. Schaefer suffered a pair of losses before pinning Heide Trask’s Nicholas Johnson in 2:41 of the fifth-place bout.

Trinity heavyweight Joseph Trahan also placed fifth after opening with a third-period pin of North Lenoir’s Kane Moore before falling 9-4 to McMichael’s Michael Vazquez in the quarterfinals. Trahan stayed in the mix by pinning Northeastern’s Davante Barrington in 1:58 and edging North Surry’s Ty Gwyn 6-5. Then came a 4-1 loss to Goldsboro’s Jaden McClary before outscoring Madison’s Mason Clubb 10-7.

Trinity’s Aiden Burkholder (106), who won two decisions, and Brayden Hall (126) both went 2-2. Hall lost by a pin before posting a pin and a major decision prior to his elimination by a decision.

Baron Justice (150) won his opener by 5-3 against Bunn’s Ryan Bell before he didn’t score in a technical fall defeat to West Caldwell’s Rakeem Smith and was ousted with a one-point defeat. Xavier Horton (190) lost in the first round and won a consolation bout in a close decision before Bandys’ Zackory Evans pinned him. Edgar Vasquez (113) won a consolation bout by forfeit in between a pair of defeats.

** After losing to Hardister, Flores (40-7) won three consecutive decisions to reach the third-place match. The junior dropped a 4-0 decision to Seaforth’s Ethan Kuball to finish fourth.

Flores scored a 7-2 decision against Manteo’s Joseph Spencer in the first round. After the Hardister match, Flores handled Shelby’s Trey Fuller for a 6-0 victory to start his march in the consolation bracket followed by a 7-2 win against Madison’s Charles Greer and a 5-0 triumph against Forest Hills’ Jaquavion Smith.

Southwestern Randolph’s Michael Jaimes didn’t place with a 2-2 record at 138. Teammate Erick Lopez Rabadan, a 165-pounder, went 0-2.

Two runners-up for Wheatmore

Swaney (138) and Hittepole (175) each came one victory away from being state champions.

Swaney was a first-period pin victim vs. Kirkland. Swaney made it to the finals by pinning Patton’s Luke Parker in the first period, topping Eden Morehead’s Nathan Howard 8-2 in the quarterfinals and squeaking past Miller 9-8 in the semifinals.

Hittepole lost by a 6-3 decision to Bandys’ Ian Moore in the title bout. Hittepole won by third-period pins in his first three bouts vs. South Granville’s Mehki Linton, Madison’s Max Shelton and Lincoln Charter’s Garrett White.

Wheatmore’s Zack Starkweather (150) split decisions in his opening two matches and then lost by a one-point decision in an elimination bout.

Randleman duo places fourth

Randleman’s Alex Raymundo (106) and Braxton Walker (190) took similar paths to fourth-place finishes.

Raymundo won twice by decisions to reach the quarterfinals, defeating Forbush’s Alan Benitez 12-6 and surviving for a 12-7 overtime victory against Lincolnton’s Isaac Powell.

Raymundo was pinned by Bunn’s Alex Monk in the semifinals before defeating Benitez again, this time 11-6 in overtime. Gabe Rogers of Seaforth pinned Raymundo at the end of the first period in the third-place match.

Walker rolled up a couple of big point totals in his first two matches, winning by 17-7 vs. Lincolnton’s Gavin Gholami and by technical fall (leading 18-3) against North Pitt’s Wisdom Mason.

Walker dropped a 3-1 semifinal decision to Brevard’s Ray Laney before posting an 8-5 decision against Rutherford-Spindale’s Jacob Hudgins. In the third-place bout, Bandys’ Zackory Evans pinned Walker in 3:10.

Randleman’s Jesus Garcia (144) ended up 0-2 and Kolby Garner (138) withdrew.

Girls’ tournament

In the first North Carolina High School Athletic Association girls’ state tournament, Trinity’s Bliss Joyce lost both of her matches via pins at 132 pounds.

By Randolph Record