Hello NCMaters and welcome back to The Grind. Sorry for the later than usual update. No excuses other than being lazy. With the extra time we've all had with the weather related delays and cancellations there is no excuse for the tardiness of this update, but better late than never, right? Or so they say.
I wanted to update everyone on the status of the NC Wrestling Forum. The word I received this morning is that the Forum is being moved to a new server. The intent of moving to a new server is so that the Forum can be updated using the newest and latest software. Many people have complained about the Forum being "dead" so to speak this season, but the reality is that the Forum is just as much read and visited this year as it has been in the past. Just not as many people are posting. That's the only difference. Hopefully, the Forum will be back up and running in the near future for all of us to enjoy once again.
I've been Emailed and approached by several people about the off-season schedule. The schedule is almost complete. If you'd like to see the schedule put together thus far send me an email to email@example.com and I will send you what I've got. Soon, there will be banners on NCMat for these tournaments that will link you straight to the registration page, which is www.usswa.net.
With this edition of The Grind, I will be discussing the upcoming 3A and 2A state duals. Before getting into that I want to revisit the prior edition of The Grind to mention a team that was omitted from the list of teams to watch for in the 4A state duals. That team is Northwest Guilford. The Vikings, much like their coach, have been really quiet this season, but they're in the midst of having a phenomenal season in spite of the fact that to date they still haven't fielded their entire lineup. Once this team gets to 100% they very well could be the team to watch for.
Another 4A team that should be watched is Jack Britt. First year coach Byron Sigmon is working some of that Sigmon coaching magic (following his Hall of Fame father's lead) and the Buccaneers are beginning to surge. Proving that point is their huge win over Lumberton earlier this month, which has created a whirlwind of intrigue within their conference.
OK, with 4A being cleared up a bit, and trust me, it's possible I still missed a team or two, but I feel confident with the coverage given to the 4A division, it's now time to move on. I will begin with the 2A division. The clear cut favorite in this division is Fred T. Foard. I was able to watch this team wrestle some at the West Wilkes Invitational and they are the real deal. From top to bottom they are emblematic of what a state championship caliber team is supposed to be. From fielding a good wrestler in each weight to solid coaching and having wrestled a competitive schedule Foard fits the bill in every capacity. That doesn't mean they aren't beatable though. There are teams that will make them sweat if they aren't mentally and physically prepared. R-S Central is another team that fits those same qualities. I've seen the R-S Central team in the off-season over the years and know first hand that they've put the time in to shine. R-S Central has been in the mix the last couple seasons and they are a proud bunch that wants to compete. No doubt there is a rivalry with Foard brewing, and their recent win over Chase, which is another top team to watch for in the 2A duals, has given them an added sense of confidence. Don't count Chase out though. They are another team that has put the time in during the spring and summer months, so they will be back when the opportunity presents itself.
Other teams in the 2A division to watch for are Washington, Wheatmore, Mount Pleasant, and West Lincoln. Washington appears to be the favorite in the east, but will have to compete with Wheatmore to get there. Wheatmore got a big win over the defending champions, Carrboro, recently, and will have a legitimate shot at representing the east in the state dual team finals. Wheatmore has the advantage after having faced tougher competition week in and week out, but Washington is bolstered by some out of state transfers that have taken that team to heights the school has never seen before. Of course, Wheatmore got a superstar transfer as well, as did Carrboro prior to last season, so the 2A division is ripe with some highly intensive intrigue as far as the state duals are concerned. Mount Pleasant is another team that has been showing signs of greatness. They have quietly dominated pretty much everybody they've wrestled this season and appear to be surging at the right time. The dark horse is West Lincoln, which is a solid team pretty much from top to bottom with a well established coach that has been through the ringer a time or two himself. In the end, I expect the final four in 2A, depending on bracketing, to be Foard, R-S Central, Washington, and Wheatmore.
Over in 3A things are going to be even more interesting than they are going to be in 2A. Unlike 2A where there is a clear cut favorite in Foard, in 3A there a several teams that are vying for the top spot with legitimate hopes of bringing home the state title. There are going to be some chess matches taking place with the coaches of these teams during the state duals. It should provide great entertainment for all the spectators while the coaches experience the heart wrenching stress caused by the state dual process that only worsens with each additional round. The teams I expect will be in heavy contention are (listed alphabetically) Cape Fear, North Henderson, Orange, Piedmont, and Southeast Guilford. There are two other teams with the capability to advance deep and make their move as well. Those two teams are Saint Stephens and Enka.
Let's start with the defending state finalists Piedmont and Orange. Piedmont started the season out with a loss to West Forsyth, but this team has rebounded tremendously and appears to be running on all cylinders one week before the start of the state duals. This is what happens when you combine great coaching, remarkable work ethic and commitment from your wrestlers, competitively advantageous scheduling, and high expectations. Piedmont very well could be about to win another state dual team title, but don't tell that to Orange, which is also running on all cylinders headed into next week's state duals. Orange underwent a tremendous coaching change with the retirement of Bobby Shriner as coach, but the team hasn't missed a beat and continues to layeth the smacketh down. Piedmont and Orange would be a tremendous state dual final, if it happens, and that is a HUGE if. Here's why.
The two newcombers to the 3A division are Cape Fear and Southeast Guilford. Both of these teams moved down from the 4A division and both are bringing some serious heat with them. Cape Fear may very well be the best tournament team in North Carolina after having won the tremendous Holiday tournaments that they won, among others, and that certainly demonstrates their worthiness in the state individual tournament. But guess what? Cape Fear also fields a real deal dual team, and their best wrestler is considered by many, including yours truly, to be the best high school wrestler in North Carolina this season (What up Mikey Sr. and Jr.?). Southeast Guilford has won the past two 4A state individual state tournament titles and was the 4A state duals runners-up in 2015, so they also have some history to back up their contention status. Southeast appears to have finally gotten itself healthy, and on weight, to formulate a very formidable team that is capable of defeating any and all teams they face in the state duals. I'm telling you now watch out for Southeast Guilford.
North Henderson is another top tier team that can bring home the hardware. This team is solid from top to bottom with a several wrestlers that will be in contention to place high at the state tournament, or even better. In fact, one is a two time defending state champion. When you have a leader like him surrounded with the talent that this team has it encapsulates all the ingredients required to win state dual team titles. This team has tasted the state duals before, and two years ago they were runners-up (tied with another team) in the 3A state individual tournament, but this year could finally be their year to bring it all home.
Three other teams worthy of being mentioned here are St. Stephens, Enka and Western Harnett. St. Stephens may very well have the best team they've ever had and they have a coach who knows what he is doing. Don't count the Indians out and underestimating them will place your team in peril. Enka is always a tough and proud team that may not be on the level this season as they have been the past couple years, but they've been through the state duals dance a few times, and their coach knows the ropes well enough to play the game to keep his team in contention. Their close loss to North Henderson recently proves their team belongs in being mentioned here. Great programs like Enka can make things happen in the state duals even when in the midst of what the Enka people may believe is a "down year." Any knowledgeable coach worth his salary knows better than to underestimate any team much less a team with the track record Enka has. Western Harnett is the new kid on the block in the east. They've racked up a bunch of wins and have some out of state transfers helping them kick butt and take names. It will be interesting to see how they compete against the likes of Orange and Cape Fear.
I look for the east to come down to Orange and Cape Fear. Of course that depends on bracketing. Bracketing will be crucial in the west since there are more teams poised to make a serious run. Making plans to compete against two teams in one night changes the strategic plans of coaches based on the match-ups and that could have bearing on how these matches develop. I'd give my insight in how I do things like this when faced with that situation, but this isn't an instructive blog for coaches..LOL. It's just a rambling blog designed and written for informative wrestling related purposes and wrestling related entertainment. In the west, again depending on bracketing, I look for Piedmont and Southeast Guilford to battle it out to represent the west.
In the Hey, Hey, Hey Segment of this edition, I wanted to let everyone know that when you pull up thencmat.com on your computer and the box comes up asking for your Email address, if you've already submitted your Email address you don't have to keep entering your Email address. Just click the "x" in the top right corner of that box. You will still be able to access the site. Some of you have submitted your Email address literally dozens of times and really it isn't necessary. If we don't have your Email address be sure to provide it to us, because we will be sending out wrestling related Email from time to time.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all who have subscribed to the website this year thus far. We sincerely appreciate your generosity and hope you will continue to support the website in the future. We plan to continue to do the site after this season and your continued assistance will help make that possible. We would also appreciate you spreading the word about the site. Believe it or not, there are still many out there who don't know about the website.
That's it for now. Thanks for reading, and until next time...
EMBRACE THE GRIND,
Topic for next time: State duals review and state tournament preview