FUQUAY-VARINA - The crux of successful wrestling is confidence. The oft-downtrodden programs and wrestlers at Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina have been in need of some for much of the past decade.
Enter first-year head coaches Mike Castle and Edward Petrosky to help instill some optimism and lay the groundwork for change at both schools.
The turnaround seems to have already started for Fuquay-Varina, which won 57-18 against the Mustangs on Wednesday night.
The Bengals (2-0) have a strong history in the sport, sweeping the 3A team and tournament state titles in 2000 and 2001. But things haven’t been the same recently – last year’s Fuquay team had just 16 wrestlers and went 5-17.
Petrosky was named head coach just before the school year, and emphasized that everyone was going to have a new slate.
Wrestlers Drew O’Rourke and Eric Wilberg began recruiting within the school, and now the team has 38 members.
“We wanted three or four kids deep in every weight class. And fortunately, we have at least two or three in each,” O’Rourke, a senior, said. “I would absolutely love to go out there and dominate, maybe finish top three in the Tri-9 (Conference). Instead of finishing eighth like last year, going all the way up to the big dogs.”
Fuquay wrestled in front of about 100 fans against Middle Creek, including several students who were out to support
“I think the way I stepped in and having a new atmosphere, a lot of kids stepped in just wanting a fresh start,” Petrosky said.
One of Petrosky’s first missions was to preach work ethic – he named sophomore Daniel Cockerill a caption as a reward for his – and get the team into better conditioning.
“It’s going to show on the mat,” Petrosky said. “Typically, if you outwork your opponent you will win the match. You could be losing by a ton of points when you come down to the third period, but if the kid’s dog-tired because you’ve been working him the whole match, you’re going to win that match.”
Middle Creek (0-1) is a new challenge for Castle, who has spent most of the last 15 years guiding a strong program at Western Harnett in two different stints. In the last few seasons, the Mustangs have had some strong individuals, but not much team success.
With 22 wrestlers last year, Middle Creek was a competitive 13-15 overall, but often came short of a signature dual-team win because of too many forfeited weight classes. That was the case when Castle’s Western team beat the Mustangs last year.
Castle thinks it’s more important for his Mustangs to buy into a team concept. After having a thin roster for so long, it was easy for Middle Creek wrestling to be viewed as more of an individual sport.
“We’ve got to understand we’re a team and we’ve got to build from within the school that we’re a team,” Castle said. “We’ve got to get to the belief that we’re a team and that if we work together as a team, we’ll grow as individuals. That’s the hard part, is the mentality.”
He said his Mustangs’ team, which has more freshmen (seven) than seniors (five) has a lot of room to grow.
“It’s not where we start, it’s where we finish,” Castle said. “A lot of them didn’t quit, and that’s a big thing. That tells you that you’ve got character and you’ve got heart. We sent out a lot of kids who have never wrestled before.”
The Mustangs have more wrestlers on this year’s team than the last, but many didn’t fit their weight class in time for Wednesday’s match.
That helped account for the match’s five forfeits, with the four wins going to Fuquay-Varina’s Brennen Elboeck (120 pounds), Will Wheeler (145), Roelvis Vargas (182) and Nate Williams (220) and the other going to Middle Creek’s Hunter Wilkinson (132).
Only three bouts went the full six minutes: an 8-2 win by Fuquay’s Preston Lee (126), an 11-0 win by Wilberg (152) and an 8-3 win by Cockerill (113).
Four Fuquay-Varina wrestlers won by pin. O’Rourke (138) needed just 40 seconds for his, while Colton Parker (195) took 59 seconds, Kyle Thompson (170) notched his in 1 minute, 6 seconds and heavyweight Grayson Booker pinned in 3 minutes, 24 seconds.
Middle Creek’s Luke Uhlik (160) and Ryan Pasquale (106) needed just 1 minute, 50 seconds and 1 minute, 16 seconds, respectively, for their pins.