Matsmen Get High Praise
BY F.W. Manning II
Special to The Pilot
The Viking grapplers went 4-1 in dual competition Saturday while hosting the Union Pines Duals.
After defeating Middle Creek 82-0, Durham Jordan 63-6, Richmond County 84-0 and Red Springs 84-0, the Vikes fell 52-12 to the Parkland Mustangs in the final dual match of the event.
As the three-time defending state champion and current top-ranked 4A team, Parkland, which was a late entry into the event after its scheduled meet in Tennessee was cancelled due to snow, came into the event riding a 154-dual winning streak.
With its victory over Union Pines, Parkland made it 159 straight dual victories, as the Mustangs claimed first place in the tournament while improving to 32-0 this season. Union Pines is currently the top-ranked 3A team in two prep polls.
After the match, Mustang head coach Maurice Atwood spoke about the strides the Union Pines wrestling program has made over years.
"It was nice that we were able to make the trek down here today," Atwood said. "Getting the chance to wrestle a quality team like Union Pines is always good. After facing them, I think the Vikings are great and are probably the best 3A dual team in the state. My third year coaching at Parkland (2006-07) we wrestled Union Pines and beat them 84-0. Three years since, coach Matt Ragsdale has taken that team from one that was beaten 84-0 to one that is the No. 1-ranked 3A team in the state."
Atwood felt the final score was not a true barometer of how competitive the match actually was, especially for those not familiar with wrestling.
"While we may have won by 40 points, that match was much closer than the score indicates," he said. "Matt has a lot of great wrestlers on this team, he has some good kids that are going to do well in the end, and I think Union Pines will fare well in the end."
Parkland won 10 of the 14 individual matches in the dual, scoring seven pins, one technical fall and two major decisions. Union Pines got four wins by decision from 112-pounder Seth Kosem, 135-pounder Chris Rubinosky, 189-pounder Graham Haulsee and 215-pounder Kaleb Rierson.
Union Pines head coach Matt Ragsdale felt that overall it was a great day for Viking wrestling despite the loss to Parkland.
"As our assistant coach Chris Vondruska told our guys before the match," Ragsdale explained, "the more you put steel through fire, the harder it gets. That is exactly what we try to do by wrestling the best possible competition throughout the year.
"Our only two losses this year are to the top two 4A teams in the state. So at least we can say we wrestled them. Parkland is just an awesome team, there is no doubt about it. I don't know of any team that is going to beat them."
After the match, Ragsdale reminded his wrestlers that one of their team goals was not to beat Parkland.
"I told our guys that we are not peaking right now, we are not training to be at a peak level," he said. "We train in the wrestling room to peak at the state tournament. Even still we jumped at the chance to wrestle Parkland to see where our team stands, even if it meant that we would likely not win our own tournament.
"Most people do not want to wrestle Parkland unless they have to, but we jumped at the chance to face them. In the end, we have to be selfish and do what it takes to make our kids better wrestlers. In order to do that, we have to make these type decisions like welcoming the best of the best to compete at our home."
On Monday, Union Pines (24-2) improved to 4-0 in Cape Fear Valley Conference competition with an 84-0 drubbing of Westover.
It was the fourth 84-0 win of the season for the Vikings, who notched their seventh shutout.
Ryan Hull (103 pounds), Seth Kosem (112), Chris Rubinosky (140), Kelvin Morrison (152), Mike Brennan (160), Graham Haulsee (189), Kaleb Rierson (215) and Marquis McKinney (275) all won by pinfall at the dual. Union Pines' other five victories all came by way of forfeit.
The Vike grapplers current individual records by class are as follows: freshmen - Hull (24-10), Blake Muse (19-7, 140-pounds), Adrian Soto-Perez (22-7, 145); sophomores - Brennan (30-5), Jaiden Lindsey (8-2, 119); juniors - Brandon Berry (25-6, 119), Danny Deardorff (22-7, 125), Morrison (28-8), Rubinosky (31-7); seniors - Haulsee (30-7), Kosem (31-5), Matthew Lester (20-11, 160), McKinney (25-6), Rierson (33-2), Randy Stevens (29-5, 130).
The Vikes will be participating in the Sarah Wilkes Tournament on Jan. 15-16 at Morehead High in Eden.
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