Area wrestling outlook
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 18, 2005 2:05 PM
During the offseason, it's not unusual to find wrestlers from Eastern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock competing for the same team, or rooting for each other on the mat.
They joke around with each other and help scout respective opponents.
Don't expect to see that during the high school season. These two teams have developed a highly-spirited rivalry that should reach a new pinnacle this season.
The Warriors have their most-experienced team returning, including a trio of state qualifiers -- Chris Tesar, Travis Turner and x.
Meanwhile, the Golden Falcons have simply reloaded after reaching the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A dual-team eastern final a year ago. Coach Kevin Smith has eight starters back, including state placer Ngu Tran.
"Somebody came up to me and said you might contend for the (Eastern Carolina) conference (title)," said eighth-year Warrior head coach Mike Brown. "I still don't think we have anything for Aycock. But, if the boys continue to work hard and get better, we should be able to wrestle with them this year.
"I don't know if we can beat them or not. Last year, it was kind of a wash and I was hoping not to get skunked -- just win one or two matches.
"This year, he's (Smith) going to have to think about us when we come (over)."
Even with experienced starters in the mix and a full lineup, Brown remains cautiously optimistic. The Warriors opened their season with a 51-22 victory over Erwin Triton, which had eight freshmen in the starting lineup.
"I'm looking for some good things from our young kids and the three returning state qualifiers," said Brown. "(There) are no big kids, but there are a lot of kids I can move around and maybe win one or two (matches) that way."
Brown shuffled his lineup Tuesday due to wrestlers not making weight. While the change didn't prove critical against the inexperienced Hawks, Brown doesn't want it to become a habit.
Senior Travis Turner posted a 44-win campaign last season and advanced to the NCHSAA Championships.
Fellow senior Joey Burridge emerged a state qualifier as a sophomore, but suffered an injury-riddled junior season. He ran cross country during the fall to improve his endurance, and notched a 24-second pin Tuesday against Triton.
Brown is also depending on contributions from junior Brian Lincoln, senior Brandon Johnson, senior Decarlos Jones, junior Detori Mitchell and sophomore Tyler Wicks.
"I just hope the boys will keep working hard," said Brown.
PIKEVILLE -- State-placers John Robertson and four-time ECC champion Turner Wood are gone.
Most coaches would breathe a huge sigh of relief when they don't see that duo warm up this season. But opponents will still have their hands full.
Five returning state qualifiers and eight returnees overall will be spaced throughout the Golden Falcon lineup.
Ngu Tran placed fourth in the state a year ago. Also back are Drake Gurley, Derek Lancaster, Josh Overton, Ronald Lynn, Bryant Lancaster, Tim Harrison and Jason Steed.
"All of these kids are experienced and know what it is going to take for them to meet our goals," said Smith, who enters the season with 94 career victories. "My expectations are for all of my returning starters to place (at state) and I'm sure they expect the same.
"I don't expect us to come out of the gates quite as fast as we did last year."
Smith and his staff are spending considerable time concentrating on technique in the wrestling room. While that takes away from physical conditioning, one of Aycock's many strengths on the mat, Smith is aware that countering moves is just as crucial to succeeding.
A mixture of underclassmen could fill the voids left by Robertson, Wood and Randy Meisenheimer. Smith is hoping to see Steve Bentley, Jarrett Covar, senior Shane Lozier, Khiry Reid and several sophomores produce during each dual-team match.
"Our expectations are always high," said Smith. "We are still wanting a state title over here pretty bad. We have a lot of work to do to get there, but we certainly have the ability to do so if every one does his part to improve to entire season."
The cupboard has never been bare during Bill Edmundson's career at Rosewood, but he says the "season will be very lean" for the Eagles.
Just two state qualifiers -- Jim Bish and Matt Davis -- return off last year's team that claimed the Carolina/Tar-Roanoke Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
"Our goal is to improve the wrestlers we have, and take the new wrestlers and stress the basics," said Edmundson, who has a career record of 244-98. "Without the full team, it is difficult to predict how we will fair as a team, but I expect us to compete individually."
Rosewood recorded six top-5 finishes in regular-season tournament competition. The Eagles ended up second overall in the NCHSAA 1-A/2-A Eastern Regional.
Edmundson's squad is a perennial fixture in the dual-team playoffs and has been eliminated each of the past two seasons by the eventual state champion.
DUDLEY -- First-year coach Andy Sullivan is relying on a solid crew of starters to turn in another good season for the Saints.
"We expect big things from our returning wrestlers," said Sullivan. "This year at 103 we have Dustin Richards and at 140 we have Raymond Valasquez, a tough freshman with a lot of potential."
Sullivan anticipates Doogie Niemond and Josh Richards to have good seasons. Also expected to return are Eric Futrell, Vic Darden, Josh Robinson, Tristan Bass, Preston Grantham and Rick Coley.
Grantham and Coley saw limited time last season.
"We are going to be tough all around, but we still have a few gaps at the end with 189 and 215," said Sullivan. "Apart from those two, we should be just as good as anyone once we have all our wrestlers back from football."
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Head coach Dwight Glenn might need to store some name tags in his bag for each match. Several new faces dot the Gators' lineup, but a familiar face -- Wes Denham -- returns for his senior season.
Denham posted 32 wins last season and qualified for the state championships. Also returning are Darin Straub (119 pounds), Paul Richter (140) and Daquan Wright (160).
"We expect to finish a strong second behind Rosewood," said Glenn. "We have just four returning starters and the rest of the team is young and inexperienced."
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