12/24/11 — Local opinion: Phillips' lofty program goals certainly not a dream to him

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Local opinion: Phillips' lofty program goals certainly not a dream to him

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 24, 2011 7:38 PM

Headgear in hand, the Goldsboro High wrestlers tugged on their sweatshirts and huddled around second-year head coach Jim Phillips.

Each grappler listened intently about the positive and negative aspects of the team's performance during a tri-meet against Princeton and Rosewood. Phillips never raised his voice. The kids never hung their heads.

Why would they?

Despite suiting up just eight wrestlers, they turned a few heads and earned some respect among their Carolina 1-A Conference peers once the 21⁄2-hour session ended. The Cougars emerged victorious in five of eight contested individual bouts against Princeton, and collected 21 points against perennial powerhouse Rosewood.

One year ago, that probably wouldn't have happened.

Phillips' teachings have taken root in program that once ruled Wayne County for nearly four decades. His kids have improved in their fundamentals, learned to fight off their backs and are not afraid to attempt the initial takedown.

"Seeing their experience ... knowing how to set up their moves, how to follow a counter or a failed attempt with a counter, with practice they've learned to make moves without thinking (too much)," said Phillips. "This year, more than last year, I've stayed with doing a few things right over giving them new moves every week.

"I think that's helped out a lot, too."

Goldsboro has just one win in 26 dual-team outings this season.

But the progress -- as individuals and a team -- goes beyond the wins and losses that so many programs hang their hats on these days. After Jamelle James earned a 2-1 decision over Rosewood's Samuel Drew in their 126-pound match, instead of shaking hands, Drew hugged James and patted him on the back.

The gesture drew a loud roar of approval from the sparse crowd in attendance. That, perhaps, was the most-defining moment of the night for a program that yearns to regain the respect it held statewide before disbanding in the 1990s.

And the current group of wrestlers get a constant history reminder every day when they step inside Norvell T. Lee Gymnasium and see that blue banner encased in glass which recognizes the Cougars' state championship teams in the early 1960s.

Phillips honestly thinks Goldsboro can revisit those days.

"The guys who stuck around to help build this program have proven to be the ones that I need to reach the goals that I've set for this team, which are high," said Phillips. "I really think that they can add to the state championships that Goldsboro had in the past, and get their own -- as a team and as individuals.

"As much as I would like to see more people out there, I'm glad with my expectations I've kept the ones who are willing to do what I need to match up with the vision I have for the program."