At a school rich with wrestling tradition, Cape Fear’s Dallas Wilson found a way to make history of his own last year.
He faces an even bigger challenge this season: finding a way to top it.
Last winter, Wilson, son of Cape Fear head coach Heath Wilson, became the first sophomore in school history to win a state wrestling championship, taking home the title in the 132-pound weight class in the 3-A state tournament.
Wilson is the lone returning state champion among Cumberland County wrestlers this fall, and having been around wrestling at Cape Fear with his dad, also a former state champ, he knows well the challenges involved in repeating.
“That’s the first thing he told me after last year was over,’’ the elder Wilson said of his son. “I’m not going to be a one and done. That’s their biggest fear. He knows he’s got a target on his back.’’
In addition to the target, the younger Wilson will be looking at new challenges this season. He’s gotten taller and gained weight, which means he’ll be moving into a different weight class.
His father said the two will likely wait until the WRAL tournament Dec. 21 to make a final decision on what weight Dallas will be wrestling at for the remainder of the season.
The key to the choice will be how comfortable Dallas is with the final weight he chooses, Heath said.
Dallas has prepared for his upcoming wrestling season with a tough summer of competition that included competing in the Super 32 about a month ago.
“He’s not overconfident, and he’s not looking beyond anybody,’’ Heath said.
Dallas gets challenged regularly in practice by his mat partner Jared Barbour, who weighs in at around 160 to 170 and is among the top three wrestlers in the state in his weight class.
Dallas looks at last year’s state title as just the beginning of a journey in wrestling that will continue for another two years at the high school level.
“Defending it and winning two more (titles) is next,’’ Dallas said. “My biggest concern would be my health more than anything. I need to stay healthy.’’
He battled problems with a gimpy ankle last year and still has concerns about it as this season begins. He’s focused on taking better angles of attack when he makes his shots, something he said multiple state champions do. “They understand angles and how to get on legs and how to hit moves that a kid that’s average wouldn’t even think about,’’ Dallas said.
“Hard work is the main aspect going into this year and next year.’’
Dallas Wilson won’t be the only solid returner on the mat for Cape Fear this season.
Tristan Chapman, 126 pounds, placed fifth in the state last year. A conference champion, 120-pound Jack Culbreth, also returns, along with 145-pound Jeremiah Smith, who came close to beating the state champion a year ago.
Now that the season is over for the Cape Fear football team, Wilson said 220-pound Nick Minacapelli will be joining the team soon.
“We’ve got some sleepers this year,’’ Coach Wilson said. “The newcomers are learning quickly.’’
Photo: Dallas (left) and Heath (right) Wilson