Cavalier wrestlers working for regionals, beyond
Last week's snow days likely were easy excuses for high school students to relax or be out-and-out lazy.
For the wrestlers who were looking ahead to the Cape Fear Valley Conference Championships on Saturday, no school couldn't be a reason for taking it easy. That certainly wasn't the case for Southern Lee's Anthony Brown.
"The entire week, I worked out twice a day just to stay in shape," Brown said.
The effort helped Brown to a second-place finish in his 113-pound weight class at Union Pines on Saturday and teammate Jonathan McCullen, at 182 pounds, completed an undefeated, 8-0, conference season for his second straight conference championship.
"We were having to work out on our own," McCullen said.
"It was more difficult than usual, than if we'd been here the whole week," he said before practice at Southern Lee Monday afternoon.
Success at the conference level is just the first step of the postseason, so there's a lot of tough practice going on for the Cavaliers. Southern Lee, with a very young team said McCullen and head coach Nick Lippert, didn't make this week's dual team state tournament. McCullen, Brown, Andrew Stamper - who has a standout record at 138 pounds but missed the CFVC championships because of injury - and potentially a few more Cavs will learn if they've qualified for the 3A Mideast regionals in the next few days.
Caleb Barrow, filling in for Stamper at 138, finished second of three competitors. Ben Long finished third in 220 pounds.
Doing well at regionals, and continuing to the state championships, means more to Stamper because of having to sit out the conference meet.
"It means a lot because having been out this past week," he said.
"At this time (of the season), you've put in a lot of hard work which wasn't always a lot fun," Stamper said.
"I'm proud of all the guys because, for the team as a whole, we knew this year we were prepping for the year after, and the year after that," Lippert said.
McCullen and Brown, still as juniors, were two of the few returning Cavs Lippert, in his first year as head coach, had to work with. Lippert hopes seeing their work pay off in postseason places and honors are team-wide lessons for the offseason and season to come.
Intensity at practice, with workouts and even with correct diets only picks up for the Cavs who still have this season going.
"I still have to work hard on my technique and strength," Brown said, "and my diet. Right now, I have to be smart about everything I do and hopefully that'll give me a shot to go to states."
"For me, wrestling never stops," said McCullen, who started the sport as a freshman.
"Now it's what I want to do every day. It's all about achieving goals, about winning at states, then wrestling in college, and after college if the opportunity presents itself."
McCullen is 23-3 this season. Brown and Stamper have 19 wins apiece.
McCullen will wrestle beyond the North Carolina high school season. He's qualified for a national junior-class-only tournament, with about 700 of the best juniors in the country, in Virginia Beach, Va. in March.
More immediately, the NCHSAA regional tournaments are set for Feb. 14-15 with the 3A Mideast Regional to be hosted at Morehead. Greensboro Coliseum will welcome the individual state championships Feb. 20-22.