Two Buccaneers earn spots in state wrestling finals

Bartlett Yancey star wrestlers Zach Ricchini (left) and Justin Guy (right) hold up their respective NCHSAA Mideast Regional tournament brackets. Ricchini ran the table, winning three straight matches to earn first place in the 170-pound weight class, while Guy also won three matches in succession to take the gold medal at 160 pounds. Both Buccaneer wrestlers now advance to this week's NCHSAA 2A State Wrestling Championships, which begin Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum. Ricchini and Guy's state titles marks the first time in BYHS school history that two wrestlers have earned regional championships in the same school year. 

Bartlett Yancey’s wrestling squad sent seven wrestlers on Saturday to the NCHSAA 2A Mideast Regionals, which were held at Walkertown High School. 

Two Buccaneers - 160-pound Justin Guy and 170-pound Zack Ricchini - made their way to the top of the podium as regional champions. Both Guy and Ricchini ran the table, winning three straight matches each to punch their respective tickets to this week’s NCHSAA 2A State Wrestling Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum. 

It was a historic weekend for the BY wrestling program, as Guy and Ricchini’s respective triumphs at the regional meet marks the first time in school history, going back to the start of wrestling at Bartlett Yancey High, that two different wrestlers won regional championships in the same year. 

Unfortunately, it was also the end of the line for two other BYHS seniors, 145-pound Kyle Grodem and 138-pound Tristan Smith, who were eliminated and did not advance to the state round. 

Grodem was pinned by East Montgomery’s Keyon Ellis in his opening match, only to bounce back and pick up a second round pin over Jacob Brown of Thomasville. In his next match, however, Grodem suffered a major decision setback to Anson County’s Cameron Robinson - his final loss as a Buccaneer. 

Smith was pinned by Reidsville’s 16-2 Cody Williams, the eventual 138-pound regional champion, in his opening match. He then suffered a technical fall loss to Eastern Randolph’s Jarod Haithcock to end his BYHS career. 

Despite the end of Grotem and Smith’s tenures as Bucs wrestlers, head coach Rick Smith is pleased with their contributions to the program. 

“It was a bittersweet weekend,” Hill said. “Kyle and Tristan put up valiant efforts in their last tournament wearing the navy, white and orange. Tristan was eliminated in the first round of consolations while Kyle advanced to the second round of consolations to then come up short of trying to make it to the state championships.” 

Guy received a bye to the quarterfinal round, where he dispatched of Wheatmore’s Wil Shores by a 17-1 technical fall early in the third round. That moved Guy into the semifinals, needing only one more win to guarantee his place in the state tournament. He took a major decision win over Trinity’s Sebastian Talent, 11-2, to earn a spot in the championship match. 

Taking on Cody Luster of Walkerton, who entered the tournament with a 28-5 overall record, Guy worked him throughout before pinning him at the 4:58 mark of the third round. 

Ricchini also earned a bye into the quarterfinals in his weight class, where he pinned Titus Harrison of Reidsville at the 1:27 mark of the first round. In the semifinals, Ricchini took on Aiden Shewcow of Oak Grove. Although Shewcow managed to take Ricchini the full six minutes, the BYHS veteran was in control throughout, earning a 9-2 decision to earn his place in Greensboro and the state finals. 

In his first place match, Ricchini took on Mason Venable of Ledford. Ricchini took charge early and pinned Venable at 2:32 of the second period, earning his place as the gold medal winner. 

Guy will take an overall record of 48-4 to the state finals, while Ricchini comes in with a record of 31-4. Both are among the top four overall seeds in their weight classes among the 16-wrestler field at the state championship round. Guy will face Croatan’s Colton Sullivan (40-16) in his opening match Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum, while Ricchini will face Garrett Shumate of West Wilkes (34-10). 

 “Justin and Zack continued to cruise through competition only having one match for each go to a decision, and that was both grapplers' matches in the semifinals of the tournament,” Hill said. “Both wrestlers then finished the tournament off with exclamation points by pinning their opponents in the championship match, helping each them earn their first ever regional championships.” 

There was also some other bright spots in the tournament for the Bucs. 

Freshman Dylan Wall, wrestling in the 182-pound weight class, overcame a loss in the quarterfinals and came within a single win of qualifying for the state finals. 

Wall pinned Wheatmore’s Perry Welch just 1 minute, 3 seconds into his opening match. Wall was then pinned by Carrboro standout Matteo Fulghieri, who entered the tournament with a 29-1 record and wound up winning the regional title. 

Wall bounced back with a pin of Anson County’s Emmanuel Lauderdale at the 1:44 mark of the first period, which was followed by an impressive 12-6 decision victory over Walkertown’s Zach Monnette. 

With his third triumph of the tournament, Wall had earned a spot in the consolation semifinals - just one win from a berth in the third place match and a guaranteed state finals spot. 

Challenging Kevin Cruz of Randleman, Wall fought tough in the first period, but lost position and wound up getting pinned early in the second period. But despite the loss, Wall gives the Buccaneers tremendous promise for future seasons. 

Another BYHS freshman, 120-pound Evan Lucas, also picked up a win at the regionals. Despite getting pinned in the first round of his opening match to Conner Nelson of Wheatmore, Lucas earned a pin of his own in the opening round of the consolation bracket. Lucas took down Jason Zell of Anson County in just 37 seconds. Lucas’s season ended in his next match, as Ke’Ron Richmond of Cummings pinned him at the 52-second mark of the first round. 

With Guy and Ricchini leaving after their state final runs, Wall and Lucas stand strong as the next generation of Bartlett Yancey wrestling standouts. 

“Evan and Dylan performed great in the tournament and gives us something to look forward to in the future,” Hill said. “Evan fought his way through to the second round of consolations, picking up a pin fall before being eliminated. Dylan marched all the way to the consolation semifinals, only to come up one match shy of punching his ticket to the state championships. It seems our seniors will be leaving the team in good hands.” 

One other BYHS grappler - 132-pound Cole Rowland - appeared at the tournament. Rowland drew the unenviable task of facing South Granville’s 40-4 Gage Peters in the opening round. And while he fought hard for a while, Rowland was ultimately pinned at the 1:20 mark of the first round. Rowland forfeited his first round consolation match to Oxford Webb’s George Kittrell, ending Rowland’s season. 

Thanks to Guy and Ricchini’s state titles, and Wall’s inspirational run to the consolation semifinals, the Bucs finished in 12th place out of 22 participating teams at the regional tournament. That’s another new high mark for the Buccaneers. 

“Overall as a team I think we may have finished the highest we ever have as a team in the team points,” Hill said. “This week we look forward to seeing how far our two remaining seniors can march in the state championships. We hope to see both of them standing on the podium Saturday.”