Samuel Aponte didn’t get the outcome he was hoping for last weekend when he competed in the National High School Coaches Association wrestling tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia. But he did come away with a pretty solid consolation prize, recognition as an All American wrestler.
Aponte, a two-time N.C. High School Athletic Association champion for Cape Fear High School at 106 pounds, placed third in the junior division of that weight class in the Virginia Beach tournament, which earned him the All American status.
“It’s going to get him a lot more notoriety,” said Colts wrestling coach Heath Wilson. “He’s making a name for himself. He’s wanting three state championships, and he’s coming in every day saying, ‘I’m going to be a three-time state champion.’”
That was part of Aponte’s reasoning for competing in the Virginia Beach tournament. He wanted to go last year but was unable to make it happen.
Once he got there this year, along with wrestlers from 49 of the 50 states, his goal was simple: Win the tournament.
“When I step on the mat, I’m going to beat you and get my hand raised,” Aponte said.
En route to his third-place finish, he did pick up wins over a couple of Virginia state champions. Placing third was a disappointment but not one he plans to dwell on.
“I had to set my eyes on the next big thing,” he said. “I got to face a lot of good wrestlers, to see what level I was at.”
He faced a state champion in nearly every match. Now, as he looks ahead, he’s focused on his plan for success.
“I can’t take my foot off the pedal,” he said. “No brakes. I have to keep going.”
Wilson thinks Aponte has the tools as he heads into his senior year at Cape Fear.
“He’s got his mind right,” WIlson said.
He also feels Aponte has an edge over other wrestlers in his class. At 5-feet-8, Wilson said, Aponte is much longer than most of his opponents and has leverage on the mat he can use in a lot of ways.
“He’s got good mat presence,” Wilson said. “He understands where he is at all times.”
David Culbreth, student activities director for Cumberland County Schools and a newly appointed member of the association’s board of directors, said a reminder about an important upcoming vote on the bylaws of the N.C. High School Athletic Association was a major topic at the meeting.
Each of the member schools in the NCHSAA gets one vote, to be cast by the school’s principal, on making a major change in the bylaws of the association.
Current policy divides member schools into four classifications based largely on daily enrollment but also incorporating other factors.
The proposed bylaw change could create as many as seven or eight classes, each with a maximum of 64 schools per class. What class you fall in would be determined by the average daily enrollment at each school and nothing else.
Culbreth said the importance in each school voting for the change was stressed. At least 75% of the schools must respond for the vote to be valid.
In addition to discussing the proposed bylaw change, the athletic directors handed out several awards to their members and a number of the winners were from Cumberland County.
Longtime Athletic Director Troy Lindsey, now serving at Gray’s Creek, was honored with induction into the NCADA Hall of Fame. Lindsey also serves on the board of directors of the NCHSAA.
Another major honor went to former Cumberland County Schools Student Activities Director Vernon Aldridge, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Former Terry Sanford principal and county schools Superintendent William Harrison received a distinguished service award. Jack Britt Athletic Director Tracie Taylor earned a citation award.