La Plata wrestling ready to hit the mats
La Plata not grappling with failure
After his team’s practice on Thursday afternoon, abbreviated slightly so that many of his wrestlers could attend the football team’s banquet at the school that evening, La Plata High School sixthyear head coach John Pankhurst hesitated to describe the 2016-17 War- riors squad as a rebuild- ing team.
La Plata graduated 12 seniors from last year’s squad, including Camer- on Butler, now a freshman at Clarion University (Pa.), who captured the Class 2A state title in the 120-pound weight classi- fication. This year’s War- riors roster will consist of only three seniors, but a solid group of juniors and two freshmen whose names will be recogniz- able among wrestling circles.
“Not only did we lose 12 seniors from last year’s team, but eight to 10 of them probably started every match for us,” Pankhurst said. “Obviously, Cameron won a state title and several of our other seniors did really well for us. It’s probably tough to set goals for a young team like this one. A lot of these guys just don’t have the experience yet, but they work hard and they’re getting better.”
This season, the bulk of the Warriors starters
will be juniors, including Mike Belrose (132 pounds), Marco Frederico (126), Jack Chipps (138), Corban Bailes (170) and Josh Roberts (113). Freshmen Owen Butler (106) and Nick Meadows (145), young- er brothers of 2016 La Plata graduates Cameron Butler and Jackson Meadows, are expect- ed to have starting spots.
“For us it’s all about seeing these guys continue to improve with each practice and each match once the season starts,” said Pankhurst, now in his 13th
season of being associated with the wrestling program at La Plata. “These guys are going to get a lot of experience in a very short time. Between Decem- ber 6 and December 28th they will each have upwards of 30 matches in less than a month.”
La Plata, which was scheduled to host Southern Mary- land Athletic Conference foes Thomas Stone and Great Mills on Tuesday evening, will head to Oakland Mills in Howard County for the Scorpion duals on Dec. 9 and 10, then the Warriors will host SMAC rivals Huntingtown, North Point and Lackey in addition to North Hagerstown, Damascus and
Parkdale in the Warriors duals on Dec. 16 and 17.
“We’re looking forward to going up to Oakland Mills and competing in that tournament,” Pankhurst said. “Then we’re really looking forward to having Huntingtown, North Point, North Hagerstown and Damascus come here. I don’t think Damascus has lost a dual meet in three years. That will give us a good indication of where we are.”
Chipps, who began wrestling at age 6, is looking forward to the tournaments and the dual meets. He is amid the next wave of talented wrestlers who will be part of the program through the 2017-18 season, while at least two others, But- ler and Meadows, will grapple through the 2019-20 slate.
“It was exciting to watch Cam- eron win a state title,” Chipps said. “I think we all want to keep working and see how far we can go. We’re a lot younger team than we were last year. So now it’s up to us to show what we can do. For me, I want to see how well I can do in SMAC and then regions and make it to states.”
Pankhurst, who is also an assistant for the Warriors foot- ball team, has borrowed another coaching and teaching ploy from the La Plata gridiron squad — watching film. Although the team does not have a designated film study day, each of the wrestlers is encouraged to watch film at least 15 minutes each week.
“We have film of all of our matches and occasionally we have some film of opponents,” Pankhurst said. “We want all the kids to watch for 15 minutes to half-hour of film each week. This way we can teach them some technique and they can learn where to correct things. It’s a young group, so the best part is I will have most of these guys for two years and some of them much longer.”
La Plata High School junior wrestler Jack Chipps is looking to have an impact for the Warriors, who graduated 12 seniors, including 120-pound state champion Cameron Butler.