FOUR OAKS -- Already tasked with facing a talented Cleveland squad, the South Johnston wrestling team suddenly found itself grappling against even bigger odds.
The Trojans had only a fraction of their team available for the home dual meet against conference foe Cleveland (19-6).
“We had an issue with a typo in the school schedule versus the actual schedule. It says the 23rd so a lot of my guys think its (Wednesday) night,” South Johnston coach Jason Warren said. “We had some phone numbers of some guys that weren’t the right numbers and we weren’t able to get in touch with everybody.”
South Johnston didn’t have school Monday or Tuesday because of the holiday and a teacher workday.
The result was a squad of only nine Trojans in uniform to take on the Rams, who entered the meet having won 15 of their last 18 dual meets. The patchwork South Johnston lineup was no match for Cleveland in the 81-0 Ram Victory.
Cleveland racked up eight pins, a decision and five forfeits in a match that lasted less than 20 minutes.
“We’re working a lot on conditioning and getting our fitness level back up,” Rams coach Scott Riley said. “We’re getting some guys back from some injuries. We’ve had as many as four or five starters out and we’re down to just one starter out now so we’re starting to get healthy.”
Adam Collins (113 pounds), Brian Collins (126), Josiah Evans (132), Dakota Hill (138), Josh Williams (152), Chance Wallace (170), Blaine Bryant (182) and Bryer Rogers (285) all rung up pins for the Rams with six of those coming in the first period. At 160 pounds, Shane Pilkington registered a 19-17 win over Eric Davidson.
With a wrestling program still just three years old, Riley is beginning to see the fruits of the labor of the previous two seasons.
“The first year we only had freshman and sophomores and those guys are juniors and seniors now so they’ve had three years of wrestling experience and that’s the hardest thing to get. That’s been a big advantage,” Riley said. “At some of the programs that are more established their kids don’t get to wrestle until their junior or senior years. So our kids have a lot of matches under their belts.”
While Riley’s future is now, Warren, a first-year coach who inherited an inexperienced team, is looking forward to a future of his own with the Trojans.
“I’ve got three guys that have ever wrestled before out of 32,” Warren said. “So we’ve had some growing pains but we’re getting there. We’ve won some and lost some but it’s all a process. I feel like the guys are really buying in and we’re going to get it turned around here in the next couple years. We’ve had some ups and downs just like you will with anything that you’re trying to rebuild.”
South Johnston freshmen Kevin Thomas, Alex Lee, Eddie Glenn and Donovan Guignard each took to the mat against an older opponent Tuesday with Glenn squaring off against the senior Hill. Sophomore Nick Aumiller faced the senior Brian Collins. Sophomore Melvin Benton and seniors Cameron Ellis, Marshall Chavis and Davidson rounded out the Trojan nine.
“Nights like tonight are hard,” Warren said. “We’re moving in the right direction but you do have to work a little harder to keep them motivated because there isn’t that history of success that some programs have been having lately. We’re in the rebuilding process.”