The first schedule change of the winter sports season goes to North Surry’s wrestling squad.
The Greyhounds were set to travel to West Jefferson to take on Ashe County, but a wintry mix of precipitation led to school officials canceling the trip.
Instead, the Hounds will rest up for the toughest date on the calendar this weekend: the King of the Mat in Lexington.
Held at North Davidson High, the tournament features some of the best wrestlers from North and South Carolina, regardless of school size.
This is the third year that North Surry and West Wilkes have taken part in the tourney, noted North Coach Eric Jessup. This is the first time that Surry Central will join them.
This event features a very high level of competition, Jessup pointed out. Good wrestlers can go 0-2 and be knocked out quickly.
He gave two examples from last season. West Wilkes’ Jorge Lima is a two-time state champion, but last year he finished fourth. Teammate J.J. LaPlante won three state 1A titles, but came in sixth.
“Nobody is going to go into that tournament and get an easy win,” he said. “It lets kids find out exactly where they stand.”
If a wrestler thinks he’s doing well, but doesn’t place, then he knows he has some work to do.
Surry Central (18-6) has several kids who are worthy of being state qualifiers, said Jessup. They could do some damage at King of the Mat, he believed.
Wes Brown is the reigning 2A state champion at 220 lbs., but he moved up to heavyweight and is 26-1 now. Kevin Pack is 24-4 at 120 lbs. Nathon Bautista (19-3) and Bryant White (17-7) join them in making the top 10 in their weight classes on Retro Rankings.
Four other wrestlers have 18 or more wins, and a few more might be higher, but the recent flu bug has kept them out of action.
North Surry isn’t going into the weekend empty-handed, either, with six ranked wrestlers.
Leading the way is Austin Collins (152 lbs.), who is undefeated at 24-0. Collins is a two-time regional champion who finished fourth in 2A last February.
Austin McMillian (120) is 21-1 and ranked third in 2A. Tristen Brannock is 25-2 and ranked third at 126 lbs. Levi Slate is also 25-2 and is ranked fourth at 195 lbs.
Two sophomores have identical 24-6 records and have cracked the top 10 in their weights. Austin Rozier is 10th at 132, and Devyn Green 10th at 145.
The Hounds have seven other wrestlers with double-digit wins and an above-.500 winning percentage.
Collins, Brannock and McMillian all have been wrestling since they were freshmen and are within reach of the school record, according to the coach.
Last year, Logan Younger broke the all-time mark of 144 wins with 147.
Collins already has 129 or 130 wins, and “Shrimpy” McMillian and Tristen are right behind him with about 125 or so each.
With seven regular-season matches, the conference tournament, regional tournament and state championship, all three of these seniors have a chance to reach 147.
The problem is, the deeper into the season the team gets, the harder it is to pick up wins, Jessup said. Nagging injuries can build up, and the competition gets more intense.
For the other local wrestling squads, East Surry is off until January and Mount Airy travels to the R.J. Reynolds individual tournament in Winston-Salem Friday.