ROCKINGHAM — Unlike previous seasons when Richmond Senior wrestling coach Earl Nicholson was faced with a roster dotted with newcomers to the sport, this year is different.
The Raiders return 17 wrestlers from last season’s varsity or junior varsity squads and Nicholson believes this will assist the team take the next step — reaching the postseason.
“It really makes it easier to practice,” Nicholson said. “The older guys can show the younger ones what to do. This year I think we are pretty solid top to bottom. The biggest thing is in every weight class we have a chance to win now. I didn’t think so last year.”
Nicholson points at two Southeastern Conference losses to Purnell Swett and Hoke County, which cost Richmond a chance at qualifying for the dual team playoffs. Pinecrest and Scotland earned the SEC’s automatic bids, while Hoke grabbed a wild-card berth.
“It was very disappointing because we got beat by two points and lost in the tiebreaker in the other,” Nicholson said. “I have high expectations for this team to make the playoffs and to also win a few matches.”
Among the wrestlers looking to help fulfill Nicholson’s hopes are: Deion Davis, Kenneth Hester, Trinity Hunt, Dustin Lamb, Jacob Staub, David Watkins and Devontae Watkins.
In the season-opening 15-team tournament hosted by Monroe High School last weekend, Davis finished second in the 220-pound division and Hester was third at 182 pounds. Dustin Lamb placed fourth at 113 pounds, while Staub, Hunt and David and Devontae Watkins finished fifth in their respectively divisions.
As a team, the Raiders placed fifth, one-half point behind Porter Ridge. South Pointe, from Rock Hill, S.C., took first, followed by Buford, S.C., and West Stanly.
Staub and Davis are currently wrestling above their weight class according to Nicholson. The main reason for that is a number of their teammates, including themselves, are joining the squad after the conclusion of the football season. Nicholson believes it will take a short adjustment period for the former football players to make their weight as well as get into wrestling shape.
Richmond was also without two wrestlers last weekend Nicholson believes will play an important role during the season — Rodderick Evans and Ben Hudson. Evans was 21-10 last season at 120 pounds, while Hudson was 10-13 in the 113-pound division at Hoggard. Hudson is sidelined until at least January with an injury.
“I feel really good about what we can do,” Nicholson said.
The Raiders will return to the mats this weekend for a tournament at Anson County.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.