RALEIGH — In his six seasons as head wrestling coach at Panther Creek, Jon Armfield’s teams measured their success with postseason results.
But in his first year coaching at Cardinal Gibbons, the two-time Tri-9 coach of the year hasn’t concerned himself with wins and losses quite yet.
Instead, Armfield’s focus has been teaching the fundamentals of wrestling to his young team. After all, 13 of the 17 Gibbons wrestlers are underclassmen with little to no wrestling experience.
While Armfield isn’t used to coaching such an inexperienced team, he has kept things loose.
“I have to remind myself to have patience, and we keep it fun. We haven’t been focusing on wins or losses because a lot of these kids are going up against guys that have been wrestling for a few years,” Armfield said.
The experience gained by many of the younger wrestlers is sure to help them in the future, he said.
“Wrestling gets a lot of first-year sophomores in the sport,” Armfield said. “I always hear kids say once they become seniors they wish they would have started their freshman year.”
One freshman who has stood out to Armfield is Derek Rose, who competes in the 160-pound weight class.
Rose said he has improved drastically since the beginning of the year and that he has benefited from Armfield’s coaching.
“He pushes you. He helps you and makes sure you learn more,” Rose said. “He just makes you want to wrestle and pushes you to be the best that you can be.”
The Crusaders have depended greatly on their lone healthy senior, Nick Witham.
Witham is a four-year wrestler, and Armfield sees him as a model for younger teammates on and off the mat.
“He’s one of the hardest workers in the room. He has a lot of experience, and he does it the right way,” Armfield said. “He’s got a 4.9 GPA, he’s a member of National Honor Society, and he has aspirations to go to the University of Chicago and he’s already been accepted to N.C. State. Nick’s going to be real successful at whatever he does, so he’s done a good job showing what can be accomplished at the high school level.”
Looking ahead to next season, Armfield is convinced that this past year will only help his team.
“Wrestling is one of those sports where the technique is a big part of it and it takes a while to learn it. It takes a while to drill it. So for these guys, this year was a big learning year to learn technique that they can carry on into next year. So the learning curve won’t be as steep next year for a lot of these young guys,” Armfield said.
Witham said that he has enjoyed having Armfield as a coach.
“He really increased the team camaraderie and made it more fun of a sport,” Witham said. “He really made it a team sport instead of an individual sport.”