High School Highlights

Cape Fear’s Wilson, Minacapelli shine in state wrestling tournament

15 Wrestlers groupBack in the late 1960s, veteran character Walter Brennan starred in a short-lived television Western series called “The Sons of Will Sonnet.’’

Though the show lasted only two seasons, Brennan uttered a line describing his talents with a gun that has lingered through the years. It was only four words:
"No brag, just fact.’’

In wrapping up the high school wrestling accomplishments of himself and his Cape Fear teammates the last four seasons, three-time state champion Heath Wilson uttered a statement that borrowed from Brennan’s line, and is hard to argue with.

“We’ve been the most successful athletic program at Cape Fear, even in Cumberland County, since I got to Cape Fear,’’ Wilson said.

He pointed to the last four years that saw the Colts bring home at least two individual state wrestling champions each of those years. Three of the eight state titles Cape Fear won were his, the last one coming just over a week ago when he dominated the 3-A 145-pound weight class in the state tournament in Greensboro to win his title.

He was not alone and teammate Nick Minacapelli had a similarly dominating effort en route to taking the 220-pound championship, erasing the disappointment of finishing third the season before.

For Wilson, one of the biggest obstacles he had to deal with all season was the pressure of chasing a third state title after winning as a sophomore and junior. But Wilson said the pressure to win the second straight championship last year was tougher than the pressure he faced this season.

“Butterflies are normally a routine for me,’’ Dallas said. “Don’t get me wrong, they were there. I knew what I had to do, and I got the job done.’’

Heath Wilson, Dallas’ father and head coach, said the seeds for his son’s string of titles were sown during Dallas’ freshman year, when he came up short in his first bid for a state championship.

Heath scored a lopsided win earlier in the season over the wrestler who would win the state title in his weight class. But he eventually suffered from what his dad calls “sticker shock."
 
“They get in there, look at the lights, look up in the stands,’’ Heath said. “There’s not a whole lot that don’t get wide-eyed.’’ He finished third in the 4-A East Regional tournament that year and lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, failing to place in the top six in his weight class that year.

That experience was all Dallas needed to correct the problem. “He blames it on his mental toughness,’’ Heath said. “After that, he decided he was going to fix it.’’
Dallas said he would lie in bed at night and convince himself that no matter who stepped on the mat to face him, he was going to win.

His final record for this season was 48-2, but those two losses were not against any living opponent. After he felt a sharp pain in his knee during a late-season tournament, he elected not to compete, to save himself for the upcoming run to the state finals.

It got him two losses via injury default. “I was being safe and I took the right path,’’ he said.

It showed in his dominance in the state tournament. None of his four matches went the distance. He defeated two of his opponents by pin. The other two, including his state finals match, were by technical fall, both matches stopped because he had gotten so far ahead in total points.

Now that his high school career is over, Dallas is pointing to college, where he has yet to make a final decision. He’s got an official visit to North Carolina State coming up. The University of North Carolina talked to him after the semifinals of the state tournament, and he also has Campbell University on his mind.

“Everything is still up in the air,’’ he said. “I want to take my time.’’

So does his teammate, Minacapelli, who has scholarship offers in both football and wrestling.

Like Dallas, Minacapelli was motivated to do better this year after a disappointing finish last season.

“It definitely inspired me to work way harder,’’ he said after a third-place finish in 2019. “I felt like I didn’t leave it all on the mat last year. I had to prove myself. I had a chip on my shoulder.’’

He made up for it by wrestling more aggressively this season, taking more shots and no longer relying on defense to win matches. “Now I rely on offense,’’ he said. “I could definitely see improvement.’’

It clearly showed in the state finals. Of his four wins, three were by pin, one in just 32 seconds and only one of his three wins by pin extending to the third period. The fourth win was a major decision, 16-8.

He said he was “super nervous” going into his finals match and could hear his heart beating in his chest. He quickly overcame that problem by scoring five points in the first period and taking command of an opponent he would eventually pin for the title.

“Everything went away and I knew I had the win,’’ he said.

It was not only a win for Minacapelli, it was the final high school wrestling match as coach for Heath Wilson, who told his team before the season that he was going to step down after 15 years at Cape Fear as both an assistant and head coach. A wrestler himself at the school, Heath Wilson was also a Cape Fear state champion.

“We had some great kids at Cape Fear,’’ Wilson said. “To read a kid and be able to figure out how he’s motivated is a passion of mine. You’ve got to really figure out what buttons to push and what buttons not to push because you’ll run them out of the room.’’

But the biggest thrill, obviously, was getting to coach his son to three state titles.

“It was the best of both worlds, as father and coach,’’ Heath said. “Both the good and the bad, that experience is indescribable.’’

Scholar athletes of the week: 2/26/20

23 01 Danielle NovakDanielle Novak

South View • Softball/volleyball • Senior

Novak has a 3.6379 grade point average. She is a member of Health Occupations Students of America, the Tiger Stripes Club and Buddy Special Olympics.

23 02 Davin SchmidtDavin Schmidt

South View • Soccer• Senior

Schmidt has a 4.5833 grade point average. He is the National Honor Society President, Spanish Honor Society President, a member of the Academy of Scholars and ranks first in the senior class.

Long-range talks about possible E.E. Smith move begin

21 EENobody’s cranking up heavy machinery and clearing land just yet, but the Cumberland County Commissioners recently addressed the idea of some day having to relocate E.E. Smith High School.

Board Vice-Chairman Glenn Adams is closer than any of his fellow commissioners to the importance of the issue. A Smith graduate, Adams has spent the last 16 years as the color commentator for E.E. Smith high school football games aired on local radio station WIDU.

Adams said the final decision on closing E.E. Smith and moving it to a new location rests in the hands of the Cumberland County Board of Education.

But because of declining enrollment at the school, Smith said the commissioners need to consider what the school’s future is before serious decisions have to be made on coming up with money for a new building if it has to move from the current one.

According to the 2019-20 average daily membership figures compiled for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, Smith’s enrollment of 1,153 students made it one of the smallest public senior high schools with athletic teams in Cumberland County.

Adams suggested the current enrollment at Smith is closer to 900 students.

While the existing E.E. Smith school building on Seabrook Road has been home to the school for many years, it wouldn’t be the first time the campus has relocated Adams said.

Adams believes the school has moved twice previously in its history, once from Washington Drive and a second time probably from a location on Orange Street.

What’s causing the concern, Adams said, is there aren’t enough people living near the current Seabrook Road location to continue providing students to attend the existing school.

“You’ve got to have some kind of alternative and you can’t wait until the end to decide where that is,’’ he said.

Even if the school does have to move, Adams stressed it’s not the building that makes a school. It’s the people who walked the halls and competed on its athletic fields and in its gymnasium.

“That heart will go wherever the building is,’’ he said. “They (the alumni and faculty) are forever going to be there.’’

The big question would be where to put a new building, and Adams said that decision is in the hands of the Board of Education. “You don’t want to go into someone else’s district,’’ he said, noting that Smith is bounded by the Pine Forest, Westover and Terry Sanford districts.

“You have to be cognizant of those other schools,’’ he said.

Adams stressed that any plan to relocate E.E. Smith is years down the road, but now is the time to begin the discussion so as many people as possible who will be affected by the move can offer their opinions on what to do.

“There are always going to be those who are nostalgic and say don’t move it,’’ Adams said. “There are others of the opinion that the school is not the building. I think it goes both ways. People are probably hearing this for the first time.’’

Adams said he has spoken with Dr. Marvin Connelly, superintendent of the Cumberland  County Schools, and said the superintendent is open to all options available.
“He hasn’t put anything off the table,’’ Adams said.

While the school board will make the final decision on what happens with E.E. Smith, Adams said it’s the task of the county commissioners to give the school board as many viable options for what to do with E.E. Smith as possible.

“It’s the county commissioners that fund the schools,’’ Adams said. That’s why he wants to start the conversation now, to provide for as many options as possible to make sure whatever alternatives are on the table will be positive.

County football jamboree features few changes

22 01 Vernon AldridgeThe schedule is set for the annual Cumberland County Schools Football Jamboree, with few changes from last year’s event.
This year’s games will be Thursday, Aug. 13 at South View High School and Friday, Aug. 14, at Terry Sanford High School. That will be the first athletic event held in Terry Sanford’s rebuilt stadium.

There is no rain date for either scrimmage. A final decision on ticket prices will be made at next month’s Cumberland County Schools athletic directors meeting.
Vernon Aldridge, student activities director for the Cumberland County Schools, said all of the non-Cumberland County schools that took part in last year’s jamboree asked to return this season.

22 02 Bill SochovkaOne of the main reasons may have been a change Aldridge made last year, switching the format from what most jamborees do in having four teams on the field at the same time, each pair playing on half the field.

Last year, Cumberland County changed to a full-field format for each scrimmage session. Aldridge indicated that was a hit with the coaches.

“It allowed them to open up their playbooks,’’ Aldridge said. “It also allowed them to know they could return punts, and to get in some snaps out there with the kicker
and punter.’’

Pine Forest football coach Bill Sochovka, who has spent 25 years at the school, the last 13 as head coach, echoed some of Aldridge’s points about the advantage of full-field
scrimmages.

“It gives a really good sense of where your kids are in terms of game preparation,’’ he said. He added it’s a benefit for younger players, especially quarterbacks, who get a better sense of the speed of the game on a full field.

“You coach all year, do your 7-on-7’s, then all of a sudden you’ve got a full rush,’’ Sochovka said. “It also helps when you break down film the following week.’’

Another big plus since Aldridge expanded the county scrimmage to bring in more outside teams is Cumberland County Schools don’t have to see someone they’ll play in the regular season.

“You don’t want to do that,’’ Sochovka said of meeting a regular-season opponent in a scrimmage setting.’’

Here is the schedule for the 2020 BSN Cumberland County Schools Football Jamboree:
 
Thursday, Aug. 13 at South View High School
5 p.m. - Lumberton vs. Douglas Byrd
6 p.m. - Hoke County vs. Overhills
7 p.m. - Union Pines vs. Gray’s Creek
8 p.m. - Clinton vs. Pine Forest
9 p.m. - Seventy-First vs. South View

Friday, Aug. 14 at Terry Sanford High School
5 p.m. - Apex Friendship vs. Triton
6 p.m. - St. Pauls vs. Westover
7 p.m. - Richmond Senior vs. Cape Fear
8 p.m. - Scotland vs. Terry Sanford
9 p.m. - E.E. Smith vs. Jack Britt

Westover’s Willis-Shaw picked for Carolina Classic

20 02 George StackhouseWestover High School’s Traymond Willis-Shaw has been named to the North Carolina roster for this year’s Carolinas Classic All-Star basketball game.

The contest pits the top senior basketball players from North Carolina and South Carolina. It will be played at John T. Hoggard High School in Wilmington on Saturday, March 28.

Willis-Shaw, a 6-foot-6 wing player for the Wolverines, is a major reason the team rolled to the Patriot Athletic Conference regular-season title and carried a 24-0 record into the opening round of last week’s conference tournament.

20 Traymond Willis ShawWestover head coach George Stackhouse said Willis-Shaw has been with the Wolverine basketball program since his freshman year at the school.
He began to occupy a central role on the team after another Wolverine who played in the Carolina Classic, Damani Applewhite, graduated. Applewhite is currently a senior on the basketball team at South Carolina State.

Through Feb. 17, Willis-Shaw averaged 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Westover. He’s made 13 3-point baskets and is hitting 71% of his free throws.
Stackhouse said Willis-Shaw is a major contributor for the Wolverines on the defensive end of the floor.

“When he’s active, our defense is so much better,’’ Stackhouse said. “He’s a very good finisher in transition. Our crowd gets going when he throws down a slam or two. It does a lot as far as giving our guys energy and our crowd energy as well.’’

Willis-Shaw said he’s looking forward to playing in the game and hoping it will increase the looks he’s been getting from colleges. So far he’s had interest from such schools as South Carolina State, Queens, Radford, Mount Olive, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina Central and Lincoln Memorial.

“I want to stay closer to home,’’ Willis-Shaw said of his pending college choice. “My parents want to make some games.’’

Stackhouse said having Willis-Shaw picked for the all-star team give the school a lot of positive publicity. “Traymond goes out and represents himself and the school well,’’ Stackhouse said.

As far as Westover’s season is concerned, Stackhouse said neither he nor the team is focusing on the unbeaten record and don’t see it as a distraction as they prepare for the conference tournament and state playoffs to follow.

“We’ve been focusing on each day at practice, trying to get better,’’ Stackhouse said. “We try not to look at any game as a big game. All of them are important.’’
Stackhouse thinks the regular season has prepared Westover well for the games ahead.

“We played some tough non-conference teams,’’ he said. “I think we play in one of the toughest conferences, just having to go through that conference and see different styles.

“If we continue to win, we’ll have a lot of home games and hopefully it will give us an advantage.’’

Willis-Shaw said the Wolverines have made it where they are with teamwork. “We help each other with everything,’’ he said. “We play together as a team. We get the work done by everybody playing their role and playing hard.’’

He hopes to do the same in the all-star game. “I just want to play hard, get rebounds and finish in the paint,’’ he said.

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