Viking Wrestlers Tackle Camp, Whitewater Rapids
Eleven current and future Viking wrestlers were accompanied by coach Matt Ragsdale and a couple of chaperones on the recent trip to Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.
On the way home, the entourage stopped in Hico, W. Va., and grappled with the class 2 through 5 rapids of the New River.
Two years ago, Ragsdale took his team to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Last summer it camped at Bloomsburg University.
Bucknell head coach Dan Wirnsberger and assistant coach Larry Sprecher held a wrestling clinic at Union Pines earlier this year. About 300 wrestlers, representing 20 high school teams from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Ohio attended the camp. The Division I Bison compete in the Patriot Conference.
Ragsdale was anxious to provide training and experience for what will be a much more inexperienced team this year than his conference champions of last season.
"We graduated five seniors and have eight returnees," the Viking coach said recently. "We have a lot of expectations for ourselves, so we're trying to get as many matches in the offseason as we can.
"A team camp is about team building and so is the whitewater rafting."
Each wrestler competed in about 20 matches. The Vikings finished a respectable 11-10 as a team against tough competition. They faced Northern Lehigh, the 2006 Pennsylvania state runner-up and state champion the year before.
"That's the kind of competition we're looking for," Ragsdale said. "At the end of the camp, you could see a significant difference in the level of ability and maturity of our guys."
Most of the Viking wrestlers probably never heard of Dan Gable. But one of the highlights for Ragsdale was meeting the wrestling legend, a guest clinician. The three-time All-American at Iowa State compiled a record of 118-1 during his prep and college career. In 1972 he won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics without surrendering a point to any of his opponents. As the head coach at Iowa University, he won 15 national titles in 21 seasons.
Making the trip with their coach were James Smearman, Zeb Bullock, Billy Talley, Tony Fernandez, C.J. Fernandez, Doug Roach, Anthony McNulty, Derrell Pate, Aaron Breasseale, Joey Beck, Tyler Crowley and parents Conrad Fernandez and Randy Roach.
The five recently graduated Union Pines wrestlers compiled a combined record of 271-75 in their senior years. They also performed well in the classroom.
The schools they plan to attend in the fall are: Jacob Brown, Appalachian State; David Boyle, Art Institute of Charlotte; Josh Fernandez, United States Naval Academy; Mike Gigas, University of Idaho (ROTC scholarship); and Joe Wood, East Carolina.
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