High School Wrestling:
Published: Dec 29, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Dec 29, 2012 02:43 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Much like last year’s 3A state champion Orange High School wrestling team, the senior Panthers are leading the way.
There are just far fewer on the 2012-13 team.
The Panthers lost nine of their 14 starters from last season to graduation. But juniors from that team like Anderson Pope and David Kozak are setting the tone.
And they were hoping to see that leadership pay-off in last weekend’s Tiger Holiday Classic at Chapel Hill High School, (held as today’s issue went to press due to early holiday deadlines).
“Those guys have been consistent in everything we’ve done so far this year,” Orange head coach Bobby Shriner said. “It’s going to be tough, the Tiger is brutal. You never know what’s going to happen.
“There’s a lot of great wresters but those guys have done well.”
The Panthers finished seventh out of 30 teams in the Mark Adams Holiday Classic at Cary High School the weekend before Christmas and took a couple of days off before hitting the practice mats hard last Wednesday.
“He told us to be smart and go for a run on our own (on the off days), which a lot of the guys do” Pope said. “Wednesday, we really cranked it up in practice, getting a lot of the weight off if we needed to. It’s just intense drilling and conditioning – not too different from any other day really.”
Pope, who wrestles at 145 pounds this year, said the Mark Adams was a good learning experience for the team as a whole. Some of the younger wrestlers saw some action as the Panthers dealt with the injury bug in Cary.
But the Panthers have been dealing with injuries all season long.
“We haven’t had the same lineup any week or weekend,” Shriner said. “We’re hoping to get our guys back – couple guys that are injured – and we’re hoping guys can get back in. Our younger guys are getting a ton of experience, which is a good thing. Everybody is working really hard.”
A few Panthers were making their return in the Tiger Holiday Classic, but Shriner was being cautious because the event can be grueling.
Pope, who finished sixth in the 138-pound class in last year’s classic, knew that the two-day event would take a lot of preparation and energy.
“Our practice should help out a lot, keeping our conditioning good,” Pope said. “But it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been wrestling, this tournament is going to wear you out.”
In the 2011 classic, Pope never lost a bout by more than two points and pocketed some important tournament experience.
In the state championships, Pope took fifth place.
The Panthers were fighting to improve on last year’s finish in the THC as they walked away with third place. Collins Hill from Georgia won the event as they dominated the field in 2011.
This year 41 teams were slated to appear at Chapel Hill High School and if the Panthers were to better last year’s showing they would have to do so despite the tough midseason scheduling.
“It’s tough over Christmas because we just got done wrestling Friday-Saturday at Cary,” Shriner said. “It’s tough, it’s not like you have a whole week to prepare for it. It’s one tournament to the next with Christmas in the middle of everything, so we’ll see.”