This little town prides itself as a fusion of the creative class and old hippies, an artsy haven where peaceniks and liberal populism intersect.
It would seem an unlikely backdrop for what has become, in seven short years, an elite powerhouse in the brawny endeavor of state high school wrestling.
The Jaguars, under coach DeWitt Driscoll, easily walked away with the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A team wrestling title in the individual wrestling championships held over the weekend at the Greensboro Coliseum. They crowned one state champ, had two second-place finishers and four more place winners.
Two weeks earlier, Driscoll’s Jaguars dropped a dual-team championship match in the dual team tournament. Newton-Conover used an academically ineligible wrestler in its 32-28 win and was forced to vacate its crown.
In the three preceding years the team advanced twice to the quarterfinals and once to the semifinals in the 2A state duals. Driscoll has taken a steady stream of wrestlers to the state individual tournament, where 18 have placed. The Jaguars finished the team race in the top 20 twice and top 10 once prior to winning it all Saturday.
Carrboro has racked up multiple consecutive conference championships.
“I don’t coach to help these guys win. I talk to them all the time about defining what success is to them, and to me success isn’t wins and losses,” Driscoll said. “Success is growth and development, and how you learn how to handle things and deal with things.”
Driscoll admits he didn’t have a detailed growth and goals chart when he took the helm with “five kids who were quote-unquote returning wrestlers” with scant wrestling skills and knowledge. “I’m not that organized, I’ll be honest with you.”
But he had a fiery competitiveness and a small band of ambitious freshmen who proved to be the clay from which he began molding the program during a 1-10 debut season.
George Carpenter was the school’s first state champion in 2013, and Stephen Dreher was runner-up. The program took off after then.
“We’ve just been growing on it every year. All our guys – we watch them from freshman year – they grow exponentially every year, and make me more and more proud of them every day. So I’m real excited to see what the future holds. I’m real happy for what we’ve been able to do so far,” Driscoll said.
Carrboro athletic director April Ross painfully recalled the travails of starting a wrestling program.
“We had three guys the first year. The second year we didn’t have a team, the third year we had like 15,” she said.
Then Driscoll’s application dropped in her lap.
“As soon as I saw the Penn State wrestling I knew he had to be a quality wrestler himself,” Ross said.
Driscoll, a former Pennsylvania state wrestling champ, graduated from Penn State at No. 9 on the Nittany Lions’ career pin list after four years of varsity action.
“He has a passion for it, and when you have a passion as a coach, you’re kind of hard to stop. You’re going to work hard, and you’re going to do whatever it takes to build a program,” Ross said. “When he started out it was very humble, but now we have kids who are vying for the state championships.”
Quincy Monday won the 2A wrestling title at 132 pounds on Saturday while David Veltri was runner-up at 152 and Emanuel Oquaye at 285. Mark Chaid (195) was third, Otto Wolin (126) and Taylor Day (138) fourth and Jacobie Lewis (220) was sixth.
Monday went up 2-1 on a single-leg takedown in the first period, escaped to start the second period and hit a double-leg with authority for a 5-1 lead. He slapped on double bars and walked around the head like it was a walk in the park to go up 8-1 with back points. In the third period, he again used the bar for three back points, gave up an escape and a Spurrier single-leg takedown. But he ended with his own escape and double leg.
Monday wasn’t saying a North Carolina state championship was harder or easier than the two titles he won in Texas. His father, Kenny Monday, was an Olympic gold medalist.
“They all require the same amount of hard work. I feel like I’m getting better,” Monday said. “It felt great. I felt like there was some hype around my name, and I just wanted to come out there and prove that it was true, so I’m glad I was able to do that.”