ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior wrestling coach Earl Nicholson has already witnessed his team get off to a quick start this season.
The Raiders opened with victories over South Robeson and Marlboro County, S.C. last week and will have their first home matches Wednesday against Cheraw and Marlboro County.
Nicholson is pleased with the effort he has seen thus far, but expects his squad will be tested by Cheraw.
“I’m happy with how the first-year guys are performing,” Nicholson said. “I went with back-ups against Marlboro and they did well. A lot of the guys went 2-0 or 1-1 and that is great compared to last year. It took some of them three or four matches before they picked up their first win.
“Cheraw has been state champion and their coach is still the same, so I expect they are going to be tough. We will see where we really are against them.”
One of expected standouts on the team will be Antoine Crouch. The senior just missed qualifying for last year’s state tournament, finishing fifth in the regionals.
“I was so close in my first year of wrestling, I was surprised I did so well,” Crouch said. “A lot of the guys I was facing were seniors. I’m not saying anything bad against anyone else, but I expect to make it this year, if nothing holds me back.”
Crouch, a Shrine Bowl selection in football, added he tried to overpower his opponents last season because of his inexperience. Not so this year, Crouch feels he has picked up the subtle nuances of the sport.
“I think I have improved on my foot work and my speed,” Crouch said. “I can try to use techniques in a match, instead of me having to think about moves, it’s more instinct now.”
In addition to Crouch, Nicholson raved about another wrestler who has caught his eye so far — Dillon King.
“He has really come a long way,” Nicholson said. “He was a heavyweight last year, but lost the weight and is now 220 pounds. He wrestled in open leagues all summer. He’s one of the captains and has really matured.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org