HILLSBOROUGH — For a coach whose wrestlers won back-to-back state dual team championships and last year swept both the dual-team and tournament championships, Orange High Schools Bobby Shriner seems nervous about his teams chances this winter.
Thats because he doesnt have most of those wrestlers back for 2012-13. The Panthers, 23-0 a year ago in dual-team competition, graduated nine seniors from Shriners most recent champions. And despite years of success like six dual-team titles and three tournament championships since 2005 theres no guarantee of finding more where those came from.
No, were always looking for new athletes. Thats the hardest thing to do in this sport, said Shriner, in his 25th year of coaching. This is a sacrifice sport. It requires a real commitment of time and effort. It requires a lot from the people who want to wrestle. Not everyone is up to that challenge.
Shriner said that Its a true blessing from God to have the wrestlers returning this season that he does. The group includes senior Jack Twomey-Kozak at 138 pounds after finishing third at 132 in last years individual championships.
Last years fifth-place finisher at 138, senior Anderson Pope, moves up to 145 this year. Junior David Peters Logue, who finished fifth at 152, will be at 160 and junior Colin Smith, a state qualifier, returns at 126 pounds.
Seven of the Panthers graduated in the class of 2012 were state individual qualifiers, including Zach Rimmer, a state champion at 145 pounds.
To win a state tournament championship with just one individual champion was really something, Shriner said. The dual-team championship is a different thing. Weve always made it a goal to find 14 guys who will work hard every week and who want to do their best in every match.
Orange also has lost state qualifiers Martin Carreon (106 pounds), Will Riley (113), Jordan Baker (120), JD Wynn (160), Jarrel Lea (195) and Wes Dawson (220). Aderrick Snipes (182) has graduated after earning the Most Valuable Wrestler Award in Oranges 34-30 victory over Southwest Randolph in the 3A dual-team championship final.
How Orange will replace those departed veterans is the biggest question facing Shriner. He does have some talented underclassmen coming up to the varsity, he said. But he doesnt know who will fit where.
Weve got some young guys waiting in the wings who may contribute, but we just dont know yet, Shriner said. The thing we know for sure is that they dont have any varsity experience, and you never know how they will react to pressure until they get that experience.
Heading into the preseason Orange Duals a five-team set of scrimmages this weekend in Hillsborough the Panthers had not even begun their wrestle-offs to decide the teams pecking order at each weight.
Even Twomey-Kozak, arguably the teams top returning wrestler and a national finalist for the Wendys High School Heisman award, isnt guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup when the Panthers start their season with the Orange Thanksgiving quads. That event Nov. 20 will include Northern Durham, Hillsborough rival Cedar Ridge and Southern Alamance.
Every year is new and fresh, Shriner said. You are not promised anything.
Shriner expects he will have a better idea of how his reconfigured lineup will do after the annual Jim King Orange Invitational, one of the states top high school wrestling events with 21 teams, which Orange hosts Nov. 30-Dec. 1. He noted two more big tests await over the Panthers holiday break: the Sgt. Mark Adams Tournament Dec. 21-22 and the Tiger Holiday Classic Dec. 28-29 at Chapel Hill High School.
Shriner wants to see his Panthers use all three of those events as a chance to get better.
We dont talk about winning, Shriner said. We talk about doing your best. We want to develop young men who will always work to do their best their best in the classroom, their best in competition and their best in life.