Instead of walking into the gym wearing a green-and-maroon singlet like the rest of his teammates, Scott Norris ambled into the Green Hope auditorium Thursday in a pair of khaki pants and a gray sweater.
Instead of taking the mat against Cary and squaring off against Lawrence White in the 130-pound match, Norris was sidelined with his right arm in a sling and his promising senior season on life support.
Norris, ranked the No. 1 4-A wrestler in his weight class according to NCMat.coms Super 32 rankings for most of the season, suffered a separated shoulder during an optional practice on New Years Day. The injury, which typically takes eight weeks to heal, could cost him the rest of the season. But hes holding out hope he could be healed in time for the Mideast Regional tournament Feb. 15-16.
I heard a crack right away, Norris said. I got up, and my shoulder was about 2 inches lower than it should be. I could be out of the sling in three weeks, and I would be doing physical therapy after that to try to speed it up.
The injury put the brakes on what was shaping up to be an outstanding season and the end of the best career enjoyed by a Green Hope wrestler in the schools 10-year history. Norris entered his senior season with a career record of 145-17. He is a three-time state qualifier, and his runner-up finish at 125 pounds last year is a personal- and school-best finish at the state tournament.
But as he entered his final high school season, Norris said he wasnt pleased with all that hed accomplished.
I wasnt too happy with my other three years, he said in early December. My record may look good, but I wasnt happy with my wrestling. This year, Im trying to practice more. Im planning on winning states.
Over the summer, Norris said he started going to the track five days a week and wrestling at least three days a week in order to prepare for his senior year. Like most of the states top wrestlers, Norris trains with the team for several hours each day, then gets additional, private work on top of that.
He loves wrestling, said Green Hope coach Chip Bunn. Hes one of those kids who comes around once in a while that thats his thing.
Hes really focused.
All the practice was paying off, too.
Before the injury, Norris was 37-2, including a 10-2 mark against other wrestlers ranked in the Super 32. Both losses occurred at the Tiger Holiday Wrestling Classic in Chapel Hill. The second was a 3-2 decision to Carys White in the consolation final.
Another component of Norris desire for a standout senior season derives from how close he came to winning a state championship last year.
After winning just one of five matches in his first two state tournament appearances, Norris won three in a row to earn a spot in the 125-pound final against Riversides Morgan Atkinson.
Going into the finals, I was a little nervous, Norris recalled. Id never accomplished anything that far. I just got way too nervous and wrestled too defensive. I didnt go after it.
After a scoreless first period, Atkinson took down Norris in the second and rode the 2-0 advantage to a 6-2 win.
I think Scott was wrestling him not to lose, instead of to win, Bunn said. When he finished, he said, Ill never wrestle in that form again. Im going to wrestle to win every time.
Norris helped the Falcons to a 22-3 dual-match record before his injury, and his work ethic trickled down to his practice partner, Brett Farina, the Falcons starter at 140 pounds.
I love wrestling against him. Hes a great practice partner. He constantly goes 100 percent, and I know Im getting better every day when Im against him, said Farina, who is 31-6 this year and ranked third in the Super 32. Not many people get to drill with one of the best wrestlers in the state. That prepares you a lot more for states. When I make it to states, Im going to be prepared because Im wrestling against him.
Now Farina, and no one else, will go up against Norris for at least another six weeks. If Norris is going to contend for a state championship, hell have to be ready for the regional tournament and finish in the top four to earn a berth in the state tournament. The odds might be long for his return, but Norris is optimistic for a speedy recovery.
I dont want to say that its over yet, he said.