Wrestling Expects Big Things this Year
By Cody Parker, Sports Editor
The UNCP wrestling team is coming off a season that saw them place three wrestlers at nationals, including the 141 pound national champion, Daniel Ownbey.
It was the second national champion the program has produced in the past three years after Mike Williams took the 165 pound national title in 2012.
Blaze Shade, who is redshirting this season, got eighth at nationals last season and Justin Pencook, who finished fourth at
nationals last season, are the other two.
The team has 14 newcomers this season.
Head Coach Othello Johnson said there are a couple freshmen who have a chance of cracking the varsity lineup.
One in particular could get into the starting lineup this season.
The team decides starters by having open tournaments within the team to let people go up against each other to test and prove themselves.
The coaches really have to monitor and control practices as well as conditioning because wrestling can be such a grueling sport.
“We try to make sure we don’t over-train the kids or wear them out. The reality is it’s a marathon of a season,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that its important to balance conditioning and weight loss effectively so the team can have a good energy level to perform.
“The people that are going to win are the people who are going to do everything right. The people that manage their weight right, the people that train right and the people who sleep right. All those things become key factors,” Johnson said.
With the season quickly approaching, the coaching staff has started putting the team in a lot of situational drills to try and get everyone ready for live matches. Johnson said they do these at the end of practice to simulate the exhaustion of a meet so the state of mind would be similar to that of a live match.
“The more the kids get in those situations in practice, the easier its going to be for them to not panic in a match situation,”Johnson said.
Their season will open on Nov. 1 in Charleston, S.C., at The Citadel Open.
Their first home action of the season will be on Nov. 9 for the Pembroke Classic which will start at 9 a.m.
“I hope we stay healthy, and I hope we can improve upon our performance last year from a dual meet perspective,” said Johnson of his expectations for the upcoming season.
Johnson said he would like to qualify five or six guys for the national tournament and come in the top 10 as a team at nationals.
Photo by Cody Parker. Daniel Ownbey, NCAA Division II 141 pound national champion from last season, looks to get back control on his opponent during the intrasquad meet at moonlight madness.