Carolina Forest’s season halted by costly penalty

Carolina Forest’s playoff run ended Saturday as the Panthers dropped a one-point heartbreaker to Stratford in the opening round of the SCHSL Class 5A Lower State Duals tournament.

Making the loss even more painful was the fact that the Panthers were docked a point for an unsportsmanlike penalty.

“I’m not going to lie, I cried,” said senior P.J. Wunderlich, who wrestled at 126 pounds. “Even though I’m going to the next level in college, it’s still heartbreaking because I’ve known these kids for five years ever since I moved down here.”

The Panthers entered as the No. 1 seed and champions of Region 6-5A, but they fell to the Knights 36-35, making their season record 22-2.

“It was a well fought match,” Carolina Forest wrestling coach Forrest Blake said. “Those guys did a great job from Stratford wrestling and our guys did a good job. It just came down to a single point and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

The Panthers received an unsportsmanlike penalty when a wrestler did not shake his opponent’s hand at the end of a match. Blake said there were some things his team could have done better, but he credited his athletes for their efforts.

“There were a couple of guys who got pinned that we hoped wouldn’t get pinned, which would have made a difference in the match,” the coach said. “You can’t give away points either. We gave up a penalty point and that’s a giveaway.”

Despite losing in the first round, Blake said the Panthers impressed him this season

“We had a great season,” he said. “Guys wrestled well. Up until that point, our only loss was to the No. 3 ranked team in North Carolina in 4A. It was a tough match and when you get to the playoffs, it should be.”

Wunderlich, who won his individual match, said the team’s loss was especially tough because he’s a senior.

“I did my part,” he said. “A few captains and the kids who will potentially be captains next year did their part. A few kids who weren’t supposed to get pinned got pinned and (a penalty) cost us the match.”

Blake agreed.

“I thought they wrestled great in a lot of spots,” he said. “Overall, we wrestled very, very well, just not quite good enough to win.” – Photo by Viraj Naik, myhorrynews.com

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