ROCKINGHAM — The near two-week break in between last Saturday’s conference tournament and next weekend’s regional competition should give Richmond’s wrestlers more than enough time to get their minds and bodies ready for battle.
But, according to head coach Earl Nicholson, going that long without a match isn’t always a good thing.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “It gives us a chance to rest and regroup, but it’s hard to keep them motivated with nine days of practice with no competition.”
It’s only the second time this season the Raiders have had more than a week to prepare for a meet. Last month’s snowstorm forced the school district to cancel school and, in turn, put a hold on all county athletics — postponing the team’s scheduled conference meet at Pinecrest in the first week of January.
They were going through a major shift during that time, due to a short-handed roster, which resulted in a few less-than-stellar outings during conference matches. But Nicholson believes his wrestlers will be ready to go next week at the 4A Eastern Regionals.
“We’re trying to keep it balanced — we’ll have a tough day, a fun day, and then another tough day — to keep it interesting and everybody motivated,” he added.
Last year, Richmond placed eighth at regionals and had three seniors finish in the top four of their respective weight classes in order to advance to states. Houston Hayden placed third in the 285-pound class, Jayshaun Jasper came in third at 145 and Antoine Shaw just made the cut with his fourth-place finish at 220.
This year, Nicholson will be looking to guys like Zachariah Hamilton (138), Marcus Hester (145), Steven Morales (120), Joey Nicholson (106) and Skylar Standridge (220) to carry the load.
Joey Nicholson and Morales, both sophomores, have the highest seeds heading into next week — securing the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds, respectively. They have highlighted some of the team’s best performances over the last month.
Hamilton and Hester both have No. 7 seeds, and Standridge picked up an eighth seed.
Hamilton, a junior, racked up 15 points at the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament last weekend to lead the way for the Raiders, pinning two opponents and then grabbing a major-decision win in the consolation semifinals. Standridge, also a junior, is one of the more experienced wrestlers on the team and has remained dependable every time he touches the mat.
“Right now, we’re focusing on one or two concepts at a time,” Nicholson said. “Like today (Thursday), we spent the whole practice working on keeping our opponents down and controlling them. And I saw some improvement with them understanding the leverage (you have when) driving your opponent to the mat.”
Regionals will be held at Glenn High School in Winston-Salem next Friday and Saturday (Feb. 9-10).
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.