February 15, 2010
After covering Union Pines this entire season along with my friend and editor Patrick Love, I wanted to give a big shout-out to the Vike grapplers on a tremendous dual-wrestling season. The program has come a long way in the three short years I have started following them.
The Vikings were ranked the No. 1 3A dual team for nearly a month, won the CFV conference championship with a 6-0 dual record (losing only six individual conference matches out a 84 total). collected 8 shutouts, and finished the dual season with a 30-3 record...losing to the top two ranked 4A teams and Orange the 3rd ranked 3A team, who wrestles for the state dual championship today as a heavy favorite.
All year head coach Matt Ragsdale said that the one major thing about this team is they did not have as much experience as they other three teams he felt had a chance to win the dual title...having only made it once before to the elite 8. He also knew the Vikes had to remain injury free...
Union Pines did suffer an injury to Blake Muse in the second round of the playoffs, and though they were less experienced, gave Orange a good battle before losing two extremely close matches late in the regional semifinal, which put them behind the eight ball.
All indications lead to Union Pines only being stronger in the years to come as they now have more experience. Even Ragz himself admitted going into this years dual-playoffs that while his team was capable of claiming the title, that they were ahead of track and that he thought UP's best chance for a dual state crown would be in the next one/two or so years.
Therefore, Union Pines wrestling should be proud and hold their heads up high for having a record breaking season. This team has set a new precedent in excellence for Vike wrestling and helped the program gain the recognition it rightfully deserves as a legitmate power and force to be reckoned with in the East 3A ranks.
Now Union Pines enters the individual portion of the 3A wrestling playoffs, starting with the regional tournament on Feb 19-20...Should the Vikes perform as expected (they did have 10 wrestlers ranked in the top ten in their respective weight classes in the Feb 8th coaches poll and also scored a huge individual tourney victory at the prestigious Tiger Holiday Classic,)....then Union Pines will have a chance to score enough points to in fact claim state title at the NCHSAA individual championships in Greensboro, while also having several wrestlers vie for top three finishes or better.
Best of luck to the Vikes, Ragsdale and coaches Brain Gray and Chris Vondruska, as they enter this final phase of a terrific season.
(Look for more information regarding the Vike grapplers' indivdiual playoff picture/prospects in the Wed. Sports section )