Building a solid high school wrestling program isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do in North Carolina, but that’s just what Rolesville and Southeast Raleigh are trying.
The two programs met Wednesday night, and Rolesville showed it’s a bit farther along at the moment with an easy 72-12 victory.
The Rams (3-3, 1-0 Greater Neuse River Conference) are in their third year as a program, and coach Michael Grether led the team to a tie for second in the GNRC a season ago. Southeast Raleigh (0-1, 0-1) and its first-year coach Michael Vassil are in the earlier stages of the building process.
For Grether, building a Rolesville program has started with a simple belief.
“You first have to love it yourself,” Grether said. “You have to be passionate and believe that it matters for others to start believing that it matters. These guys have bought into our vision, they got their friends to buy into their vision. Winning helps – and getting the publicity out there of the good things and the hard work our guys are doing.
“Success begets success.”
Brandon Acklin has been part of the Rolesville program since its inception, and the senior is one of the Rams’ leaders. Wrestling at 120 pounds, Acklin pinned Southeast’s Steven Wainaina at the 1:08 mark in the first period.
Matt Mims (126), David Certan (138), Mason Hunt (145), Khalil Crudup (182) and Bobby James (195) all scored pins for the Rams, with James getting his 16 seconds into the first period. Rolesville also got six wins by forfeit and had a 72-0 lead before the Bulldogs got on the board.
In addition to Acklin, Grether will count on the junior Mims, senior Trevor Brenton (returning from an injury) and Certan, a transfer from Maryland, as team leaders.
“We’re doing a lot better,” Acklin said. “We’ve got a lot of new big guys who are learning pretty quickly, learning a few throws. We have a lot bigger team, and we’re a lot better.”
And after tying for second with East Wake a year ago, Rolesville’s goal is to contend for the conference title.
“That’s what we’re working on," Acklin said. “We’re trying to go 7-0 and hopefully go to states as a team and then place there.”
Southeast has more modest goals as Vassil continues constructing a young program.
“For the team as a whole, we’re trying to at least get some wins,” said Southeast senior Jerry Harper, who scored a pin at 220. “Last year, we didn’t get enough wins as a team. We’ve got to work hard at practice and get our fundamentals right so everybody can do better – and then give it all we’ve got.”
That’s right where Vassil wants to start: Fundamentals.
“Honestly, for a lot of these guys, they’re still new to it,” Vassil said. “They’re really trying to branch out. For a lot of these kids, they’ve never really been on a mat. It’s getting them here every day and trying to work fundamentals to try to get them to a point where they feel comfortable – to where they’ll go out and try to make moves. It’s the same as trying to teach a kid from crawling to walking.
“It’s one step at a time."
Harper, a regional qualifier a year ago, will be counted on heavily on and off the mat. But Vassil also has a solid heavyweight in sophomore A.J. Perry, who was tied 2-2 with Jordan Laurio before Laurio had to quit with an apparent injury.
Perry struggled against more experienced wrestlers a year ago but Vassil hopes he learned from that.
“He really kinda got drug around a little bit,” Vassil said. “But in the match he had today, he made attempts at stuff I haven’t seen out of him. That was really awesome.”