PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry will say goodbye to its lone wrestling senior tonight as Cody Gaskill has his last home match of the regular season.
Cody will go for his 20th win of the season against South Stokes, a team the Cardinals have beaten twice already this year.
The senior has come a long way in his four seasons. He won four matches as a freshman and six as a sophomore before catching fire in the playoffs last year.
This season, he finally has earned some respect from coaches around the state and is ranked first in the state for 1A schools at 195 lbs.
The Cards have three wrestlers ranked in the top six on Retro Rankings. Eddie Nunez (106) and Jimmy Speer (145) join Cody, while Keanu Love is the first honorable mention just outside the top six at 152 lbs.
Having a Cardinal atop the rankings is nothing new after Jacob Fregia (160) and Greg UpChurch (220) spent much of last year at first in their weights. Last February, Fregia won the state title, while UpChurch took third and fellow senior Chad Woods was fourth at heavyweight.
Last year as a junior, Cody missed a month of action with an injury and had just 10 matches in the regular season. He was 7-3, a respectable record made even better considering his three losses came at the hands of Starmount’s Omar Aguilar (30-12), West Stokes’ Timothy Daniel (25-12) and North Surry’s Austin Riggs (42-6).
In the 2012 Northwest Conference Tournament, Cody avenged his loss to Daniel in the semifinals, then lost a close 7-4 decision to Riggs.
Then he took that gained experience to the regional and state levels where he finished third in the state for 1A.
“Wrestling is the world to me,” said Cody. “Without it I would not be the person I am now. There’s nothing like hearing the crowd going crazy — it’s the ultimate adrenaline.”
At the state tournament, that crowd can be thousands of fans packed around the lower level of the Greensboro Coliseum.
So far this year, Cody is 19-4. One of those losses came against Parkland, a 4A powerhouse team that is 36-0 now and has won 302 straight matches over the past several years.
The other three losses have come against North Surry’s Levi Slate, all in very close decisions. Those scores were 3-2, 9-7 and 3-2.
As East Surry’s lone senior, Cody has had to step up into a leadership role after deferring to three prominent seniors last year.
“My team means the world to me,” he said. “Although there’s times where some of them will get on your nerves, they’re a very strong team this year, and I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.
“Wrestling is really an individual sport only when you’re on the mat wrestling,” he added. “Off the mat it’s about the team. If you’re a weak leader, your team’s going to be weak.”
With a team heavy on sophomores and juniors, Cody said, “If they keep working hard, they’ll be even better next year and the next.”
The wrestling match tonight is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.