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Prep Wrestling Preview: For Eagle wrestlers, motto is no letup
STATE CHAMPS EAGER
TO DEFEND COVETED TITLE
TO DEFEND COVETED TITLE
BY JUSTIN RICE
THE FREE LANCE—STAR
The two-week break Colonial Forge’s wrestling team took last March would have likely been shorter, except the Virginia High School League requires a no-practice period after the end of a season.
This week, The Free Lance–Star is previewing the winter high school sports season. Here is the schedule:
Thursday: Track and field
Saturday: Girls basketball
Sunday: Boys basketball
But even with that short time off—and another VHSL-mandated break over the summer—the Eagles spent a ton of time in the wrestling room over the last nine months, eager to defend their Group AAA state team title.
“We want to keep that banner up there,” senior Bryce Gentry said, “and prove to everyone that Colonial Forge is the team to beat.”
The long offseason is part of the self-inflicted pressure from a wrestling program that has been one of the state’s best over the last decade, Eagles coach Bill Swink said. When former wrestlers come back to visit, they’re going to let the current crop know they can’t be the group that allows that legacy to slip.
“You have to be committed if you’re going to be at the top,” Swink said. “We don’t want to be above average. We want to be special and you’ve got to work for it.”
This Colonial Forge group should be good enough to contend for the school’s fifth state team title, and it starts with the four seniors who were state place-winners last year.
It’s that group—Bryce Gentry (fourth at 106 pounds in 2012), Tony Neis (fifth at 132), Sean Murphy (seventh at 145) and Zach Martinez (fourth at 170)—who will serve as primary caretakers for the program’s legacy this year.
“Last year we were able to lay back and let [last year’s seniors] do it,” Martinez said. “Now it’s our turn. I feel like we’re stepping up. We’re getting there.”
It helps, of course, that Colonial Forge will field another deep and talented lineup this winter.
Along with the four seniors, sophomore Jeff Stone was fifth last year at 113.
All five of those returning place-winners have shifted weight classes, and there’s strong new blood filling in the gaps.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces,” Swink said. “They’re talented, but we haven’t seen them compete a lot. So we’ll see.”
And with those new faces, Gentry and his classmates have had to push and push and push.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “We’re really dedicated this season. All the captains are pushing the team, even to greater lengths than we have before.
“We’ve got to set the example. If we’re working hard, they should be working hard, too. When we have success, it’s because they’re having success, too.”
All four of the seniors have been on Colonial Forge teams that have failed to win state team titles. They were freshmen the year the Eagles’ string of three-straight titles ended, and their sophomore season didn’t end with a new banner hanging in the gym, either.
Now they’ve spent an offseason as champions, knowing it’s their turn to show they can continue Colonial Forge’s run of dominance.
“Winning it: That’s the motivation,” Neis said. “This is my senior year. This is my last chance. That’s definitely what we’re shooting for.”
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045