Vike Grapplers Ready for Season
As the Union Pines Viking wrestling team readies to embark on a new season, it does so with high aspirations.
“Right from the start, the bar for our goals and expectations will be set higher,” Vike head coach Matt Ragsdale said.
As the top-ranked 3A tournament team (according to RetroRankings.com) and sitting second in the coaches’ 3A dual poll, on paper Union Pines is a considered an elite powerhouse. On the first day of practice, Ragsdale was greeted by a record-setting 32 athletes staring back at him from the mat of the Vikes’ wrestling room.
Ragsdale said Union Pines’ goal is to win both a dual team and individual state championship this year.
“This team is very capable of doing that,” he said. “We have an extremely deep lineup this season. It is also the strongest lineup we have ever had.”
Seven state qualifiers return to anchor this year’s team.
Junior Mike Brennan went 38-9 on the year to place fourth in the 160-pound division, and senior Brandon Berry (33-8) finished fifth at 119 pounds. Meanwhile Jared Bartram, a sophomore-transfer from Jack Britt, compiled a record of 43-7 in his freshman campaign to place fifth in the 4A 160-pound weight class.
Seniors Chris Rubinosky and Daniel Deardorff, along with sophomores Ryan Hull and Adrian Soto-Perez are the other retuning Vike state qualifiers.
Over the past four years, the Vikings have only gotten stronger and stronger. The team has set and surpassed new school records for numbers of regional and state qualifiers in each of its previous three seasons.
Finishing with an overall team mark of 30-3, Union Pines made it to the state quarterfinal round of the dual team playoffs last season and is coming off its most historic campaign in school history. Ragsdale feels the solid foundation his team has built, on top of the invaluable postseason experience they now possess, is bound to pay off in a big way.
A challenging non-conference schedule is yet another aspect Ragsdale hopes will prepare his team this season come playoff time.
“Right off the bat we will be facing two top-five 3A dual teams,” Ragsdale said, “and that is scary because anything can happen.”
In their season opener, Union Pines travels to Asheboro to take on the 3A Southwestern Randolph Cougars in dual competition on Nov. 24.
Union Pines dealt Southwestern Randolph a 48-18 loss to open its season last year in Cameron. But the Cougars then went on to win 40 straight dual matches before falling 35-33 in a playoff quarterfinal tilt to eventual 3A dual champion J.M. Robinson. (J.M. Robinson is the top-ranked dual team in the coaches’ 3A poll.)
“Year in and year out, our non-conference schedule is brutal and this season is no exception,” said Ragsdale, who invited defending 4A dual state champion Parkland to complete the five-team field at last year’s Union Pines Duals.
Before moving up in classification in the fall of 2009, Parkland claimed three straight 3A state dual team crowns.
“Like I have said before,” Ragsdale continued, “we will wrestle anybody, anywhere — the top teams in the state — it doesn’t matter.”
Also on the nonconference docket for the Vikes this season is home duals against Chapel Hill, Nash Central, and intra-county rival 4A Pinecrest. Union Pines looks to defend its Cape Fear Valley Conference championship with home league matches versus Westover, Western Harnett and Douglas Byrd.
“The key thing to remember is we don’t care as much about wins and losses as we do about becoming a stronger more complete team. You do that by taking on the best.
“People rarely ask you how you did in the early season. They want to know how you did when it counts – at the end of the season — and that is where our focus is.”
In what has become an annual tradition, Union Pines will host the Viking Invitational tournament again this season. The Vikes are also scheduled to hit the road to participate in four additional individual tournaments.
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dual Schedule: Nov. – 24 at SW Randolph, 6 p.m.; Dec. – 2 Pinecrest; 4 Terry Bach Duals (at Wilmington) 7:30 a.m.; 8 at Overhills; 9 vs Nash Central; 13 at Gray’s Creek; Jan. – 5 W. Harnett; 8 Union Pines Duals 8 a.m.; 12 Westover; 19 at Southern Lee; 26 Chapel Hill; Feb. – 2 Douglas Byrd;
All match times are 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. *CFVC matches.
Tournament Schedule: Nov. – 27 SW Randolph Invitational, Asheboro, 9 a.m.; Dec. – 17 (4 p.m.) and 18 (6 p.m.) WRAL Invitational, Raleigh; 27-28 Tiger Holiday Classic 8 a.m. (both days), Chapel Hill; Jan. – 14 (5 p.m.) and 15 (6 p.m.) Sarah Wilkes, Eden; 22 Viking Invitational (at UP) 8 a.m. Feb. – 5 CFVC Championships, 9 a.m.
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