La Plata wrestling ready to hit the mats

La Plata not grap­pling with fail­ure

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com

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.”

PHOTO BY ROB WORMAN

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.

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