For the second consecutive year, the Pinecrest Wrestling Club competed in the High School National Duals tournament in Virginia Beach, Va., and built upon its success from a year ago.
One of the the fastest growing clubs in Southeast North Carolina, the program was excited to add a middle school team with 15 student-athletes from Southern Middle and West Pine middle schools to the national venue.
“The addition of the middle school team, not only serves to strengthen community ties, but ensures a common work ethic in the practice room, teamwork in competition, and camaraderie amongst young men which ultimately builds upon the Pinecrest Patriot “esprit de corps” established by a historic legacy of former wrestlers and coaches,” said Bob Curtin, the club’s head coach.
The best teams from across the nation battled head-to-head for the 2019 National Duals Championship title and the Pinecrest wrestlers were among them.
The team that has 16 Pinecrest student-athletes, as well as wrestlers from two other area schools, once again proved its resolve to continue to grow and be a dominant force as one of the strongest programs in North Carolina, according to a spokesperson.
The high school team battled to an overall 3-3 record on the weekend and fell three points shy of a 4-2 record and a possible top 64 ranking.
This was an impressive accomplishment because the team forfeited six points every match at the 285-pound weight class. Chase Godwin, the Patriot 285-pound standout freshman, was sidelined becasue he is recovering from a knee injury.
The decision was to compete with the guys from Pinecrest and Moore County and not look to a pool of free agents to fill the position.
Led by team captains Matt Rowland, Will Nguyen and Parker Corwin the high school team defeated powerhouse programs from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Ben Baker, Hunter Hillis and Alex Hammonds rounded out a solid top end of the lineup that pushed nationally ranked teams to the brink of defeat.
Not to be outdone by the high school performance was the middle school team. Led by co-captains Riley Merchant and Elijah Ybarra, the middle school team became a hardened and battle tested team, according to a spokesperson.
With a personal record of 4-1 Merchant beat several state record holders.
“Merchant’s loss was to a nationally ranked wrestler,” said coach Hunter Corwin. “It was a war of skill, grit, and determination where neither wrestler was prepared to lose.”
Key performances by Elijah Ybarra, Gunnar Hillis, Cooper Ogden, Landon Holzer, Elijah Huff, Gregory Padgett and Devin Kissinger were critical to the overall success of the Patriot middle school team.
Equally impressive was the skill and acumen of the club’s only female wrestler, Megan Rowland. She was fearless and battled her way through a rigorous group of opponents. There is a bright future for these middle school students.
The coaches, parents, and mentors of this program are extremely proud of the independent growth of the young wrestlers. There has been so much growth over the past year in terms of building teamwork, camaraderie and ownership of individual work ethic.
“Our student-athletes simply outworked and out trained their opponents,” said coach Josh Millard. “What a positive environment to be involved in.”
The team’s coaches, leadership and board members, all comprised of Pinecrest graduates and community leaders, are ecstatic with the program’s success. Most impressive to the coaches is the caliber and quality of the student-athletes that have and continue to sign up to wrestle.
Assistant head coach Quamar Shodja said, “Wrestling is not a sport for the faint of heart and only those who want to be successful will come and put in the hard work; it is a microcosm of real life.”
The high school and middle school teams ventures on the national stage are just the beginning. It is a non-profit organization where all the energies expended are directed to improving every child in the neighborhood.
Serving as a pipeline to the Pinecrest High School wrestling team, the club has a collegiate level curriculum based on USA High School Wrestling that is focused on the basics of physical and mental fitness, skill development, athleticism, and academic growth for all kids 5-18 years of age.
The coaches come from the high school, middle schools and the Moore County community.