Vikings Hit the Mats Tonight
The Union Pines wrestling team opens the season tonight in Cameron against Southwestern Randolph.
Dual team action is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on the mat at Bob Ward Gymnasium, as the Vikings celebrate student night during their season opener.
Union Pines enters the 2011-12 campaign coming off its most successful wrestling season in school history.
Last season, the Vikings went 11-1 in dual action, before dropping a second-round dual-team playoff match by three points (27-24) to eventual state champion Orange High.
The Vikes also put together a second-place finish at the individual state 3-A wrestling championships. The runner-up total of 88 points, two less than state champion Fred T. Foard, was a new Union Pines record, as was the Vikings’ tally of seven wrestlers to place at the state meet along with eight state qualifiers
Of those seven state-placers, Union Pines returns two.
Senior Mike Brennan placed third at 189 pounds, while fellow senior Philip Mondi finished sixth at 119. The Vikings lost four to graduation and another in Adrian Soto-Perez, who took home a third in the 145-pound division for Union Pines. Over the summer, the junior moved out of the area and transferred to Scotland High, where he is currently the top-ranked 4-A 170-pound wrestler in the state.
Despite the large turnover, head coach Matt Ragsdale still has high expectations for his Union Pines squad. The Vikings set new school records for a fourth straight year last season at the state championships.
“We are quite excited as the season is about to start,” said Ragsdale. “We have a lot of new faces out this year and that is a good thing, especially for our prospects in the upcoming years. We have never had this many kids out before, with 32 on the roster. Prior to this season the most we have ever had at this part of the year is around 20-22, so it is a big improvement.
“This will be the first year we have a full jayvee team, and we have 12 freshman out as of now, which is very encouraging. To have a full junior varsity lineup and season on the docket is exciting and shows how far we have come as a program.
“For our varsity lineup, the team goal is to win a state championship in either dual-team or individual tournament team and again have seven state qualifiers. I feel like that is a very reasonable goal, with who we have returning.”
Currently, Union Pines is ranked second in the coaches’ 3-A state dual team poll. The Vikes are ranked sixth in the 3-A state tournament team rankings released by retrorankings.com.
Of the 14 weight class slots that make up a dual-team match, Union Pines returns four starters from a season ago, including Brennan and Mondi, along with Billy Hornbaker and Josh Huskey. Junior Ryan Hull, a 2010 state qualifier, and senior Jaiden Lindsay also have ample varsity experience for the Vikes.
Along with the many new Vikings wrestling on the mat, another change Union Pines fans will see out at the matches is a brand new 14-weight classification list recently implemented by the National Federation of State High Schools Association.
“Every state had adopted this new weight lineup,” said Ragsdale. “The federation took data from wrestling matches across the country and then applied the data to align the correct weight classes with the number of participants.”
Union Pines’ opening-day 14-man wrestling lineup for today’s duals is: senior Hornbaker at 106 pounds; freshman Samuel Bartram (113 pounds); sophomore Paul Ambrose (120); Lindsey (126); Hull (132); Mondi (138); sophomore Tim Squires (145); junior Zack Yates (152); junior Ian Burch (160); junior Izzy McDonald (170), Brennan (182); freshman Justin Hall (195); Huskey (220); and senior Andreas Berryman (285).
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