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By Sam Hickman
One thing is certain: Caleb Hawkins would have been proud.
A former standout athlete at West Brunswick, Hawkins was a member of the cross-country team, the wrestling squad and was the Trojans’ No. 1 tennis player before tragedy struck in May 2009.
After winning the Most Improved Wrestler award following his junior season, Hawkins died the same year from injuries he suffered as a passenger in an automobile wreck 10 days before his 18th birthday.
Consequently, the No. 1 court at West Brunswick’s tennis facility is now Caleb Hawkins Court.
His impact on the Trojan community stretched far beyond the doubles alleys, however, and head wrestling coach Jimmy Caraway, now in his eighth season at the helm, decided to dedicate the Trojans’ annual December tournament in his former grapplers’ honor.
Saturday in Shallotte, West had the fourth annual Caleb Hawkins Memorial Tournament. Undoubtedly, Hawkins would have celebrated the results. West Brunswick’s varsity team placed first, second or third in 11 of the 14 weight classes en route to tallying 147 total team points as it outscored its closest competitor (Socastee, S.C.) by 33 points to grab the team championship. Conway (S.C.) finished third in the team event as it accumulated 98 points.
Caraway said he was most impressed by the performance of sophomore heavyweight Joe Gore, who mowed through a highly competitive 285-pound weight class to finish 4-0 on the day and improve his season record to 10-0. He was one of three Trojan
wrestlers to earn first-place finishes and walk away donning a gold medal at day’s end.
“Joe came from obscurity and has just been great all year,” Caraway said. “He really came out of nowhere. We have talked about his potential and his progress but I don’t think any of us expected him to be 10-0 at this point. We’re really proud of him.”
For the second consecutive year, Campbell Alspaugh claimed a first-place medal as he won the only two matches in which he participated. Alspaugh, a sophomore, came out victorious in the 126-pound division after winning the 120-pound class a year ago.
The third winner for the Trojans was sophomore Jyquan Green in the 113-pound grouping. He won a trio of matches and did not suffer a loss on his way to the championship.
Other top finishers for West were freshman Jordan Hernandez (106/third), sophomore Malik Gore (132/third), sophomore David Frazier (138/second), senior Edge Kirby (152/third), junior Dylan Darguzas (160/second), senior Caleb DiSpirito (182/second), junior Dakota Smith (195/third) and senior Bobby McRainey (220/second).
North Brunswick’s Anthony Walker finished second in the 145-pound class while fellow Scorpion Homero Segura won the 182-pound bracket. The Scorpions’ Bellamy claimed top prize in the 170-pound competition.
The Trojans also had several top finishers at the junior varsity level, which took place in West Brunswick’s auxiliary gym until the finals, when the competitors were brought into the main gym for the championship matches.
West’s C.J. Jasper won the 106-pound class as he defeated teammate Allan Plueger in the finals. Porfirio Bautista owned the 120-pound division. Another pair of Trojan teammates finished first and second in the 126-pound group, as Michael Nelson defeated Robert Lapish in the final match.
Trojan wrestler Khalid Matthews claimed the title in the 132-pound class. West Brunswick’s Nate Gilbert received top honors in the 220-pound group.
North’s James White finished second in the 120-pound class. The Scorpions’ Jacob Kemp and Eric Scott finished second in the 152 and 160-pound divisions, respectively.
The tournament included 11 teams, which is the most it has had in its four-year history. Last year’s competition included 10 squads.
This year’s participants were West, North, Ashley, Socastee, South Central, Clinton, St. Pauls, South Robeson, Purnell Swett, Conway and Lumberton.
Part of the proceeds from this tournament will be used to help fund the Caleb Hawkins Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded in May during the Senior Awards ceremony. The scholarship is worth $500. James Hall was awarded the inaugural award in 2010 and Ronnie Dellinger was the 2011 recipient.
Caraway said the tournament is a great representation of the growth of his program in recent years.
“When I started eight years ago, this was our vision. We have 40 kids on the team this year. It all starts with our middle school feeder system,” he said. “We’re starting these kids at a young age and they’re getting excited about the sport.
“Even the students who aren’t on the team, we get them to help with matches. There are kids in our classes that want to help keep score and things like that. We’ve generated a ton of excitement and it’s great to see.”
Surely, Caleb Hawkins would be excited to see it, too.