JEFFERSON’S December-on-the-road got off to a propitious start. Making the trek to Raleigh, N.C., for the 40th annual WRAL traditional tournament, the Dragons finished first in a 35-team field that featured some of the best teams in the South.

“We did exceptional,” coach Doug Thurmond said.

Jefferson’s long distance travels continue this week with an appearance in the Pigeon Forge Southern Duals (Wednesday-Thursday), followed by The Clash National Duals in Minnesota next week (Dec. 30-31).

With seven wrestlers reaching the finals in North Carolina, Jefferson tallied 256 points to beat perennial North Carolina Class AAAAA champion Parkland (215.5 points) — last year’s WRAL champion — by 40.5 points.

Ocean’s Lake (Va.) was third (173 points), and Pinecrest (N.C.) finished fourth (164).

Jefferson boasted three first-place finishers in individual weight classes: Tyler Marranelli (126 lb.), Isaac Kelley (132 lb.) and Forrest Przybysz (170 lb.). Following with second-place finishes were Josh Harris (120 lb.), Cain Finch (152 lb.), Jake Sherman (160 lb.) and Aaron Anderson (220 lb.).

Other placers were Chase Piperato (fourth, 106 lb.), Clay Richardson (fifth, 138 lb.), Jack Dollar (sixth, 145 lb.) and Carson Newman (fourth, 195 lb.).

Everyone on the team won at least one match.

“I was proud of all them,” Thurmond said. “Everybody on our team won matches which helped toward our doing well.”

Winning a tournament of the stature of the WRAL tournament says a lot for a team trying to secure its 12th straight traditional state title and 11th consecutive duals state title this winter.

“We were really pleased,” Thurmond said. “The boys showed up and there were some great matches.”

The Dragons also got through the tournament unscathed as far as injuries.

Jefferson will put its unbeaten duals record (8-0) on the line this week at the Pigeon Forge Southern duals, which will feature schools from Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Standout teams include Father Ryan, a powerhouse out of Tennessee and Dutch Fork, a notable team hailing from South Carolina.

The downside to these out-of-state tournaments is that it leaves Jefferson without much of a Christmas break. But the perennial state champions can’t afford that long of a layoff. After all, the area and state duals are in January.

“I know it’s tough on the kids’ families, and it’s tough on my family,” Thurmond said. “But that’s just part of it. If you’re going be where you want to be, you’re going to have to do the things you’ve got to do.”

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