August 20, 2010
After qualifying 11 of 14 wrestlers for the NCHSAA 3A State Championships in 2009 from a young team, the apparent big preseason story for the Vikings is starting the 2010 season with 7 returning state qualifiers including two transfer student athletes. However, if you look a little deeper, there is something going on behind the scenes. A quiet revolution in Moore County is brewing and Coach Matt Ragsdale is leading the way.
The revolution is the development of a district wide wrestling program built from a foundation of highly qualified young coaches. First Coach Brian Gray was hired as a Math teacher and assistant wrestling coach. Coach Gray wrestled for James Madison University where he was a four-year starter. Coach Gray was the head coach at Alfred State College and was a New York high school state champion. Another stone was laid in 2008 with the hiring of Coach Chris Vondruska as a Social Studies teacher and assistant wrestling coach at Union Pines High School. Coach Vondruska was a two-time NCAA Qualifier and two-time NWCA Academic All-American while in college at Hofstra and Ohio State. The National Wrestling Coaches’ Association named Vondruska the 2009-2010 North Carolina Assistant Coach of the Year, one of the most prestigious honors in the nation for a high school assistant coach. Coach Vondruska is also the head coach of the Copperheads Wrestling Club, a youth wrestling club serving Kindergarten through High School aged wrestlers from Moore and neighboring counties.
Coach John Lowery was hired over the summer as an English Teacher and head wrestling coach at Crain’s Creek Middle School. Coach Lowery is a graduate of Walsh Jesuit High School, one of the premier wrestling programs in the nation. At Walsh Jesuit, Coach Lowery was a two-time Ohio state placer finishing fifth and second as well as a two-time high school All American on Team Ohio’s national championship teams. Lowery’s collegiate wrestling career includes two years at the Virginia Military Institute as a varsity wrestler and co-captain and two years at Campbellsville University where he was a two-time NAIA national qualifier. Coach Lowery was the NAACP 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year. Coach Lowery is looking forward to his first year at Crain’s Creek, Moore County’s new middle school as well as coaching with the Copperheads Wrestling Club.
Coach Ragsdale says, “The 2010-2011 season is going to be another breakout season for Union Pines. We have been very busy this off-season and once again we expect it to pay off. We are looking for short term success with the additions of our coaching staff but it will surely help in the long run.”