For the first time, it’s not about the team

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

If only the King’s Fork and Nansemond River high school wrestling teams could join together and wrestle as one, they might have a shot against nearly everyone in the area. Unfortunately, the Southeastern district rules just don’t allow such a combination, leaving both teams in the unenviable position of not having enough wrestlers to field for a full match, leading to several forfeitures per meet for both teams.

But wrestlers like Brent Christie know that when the district and regional championships get rolling in early February, team records won’t matter. When he ventures out to battle the area’s finest in 135-competition, he won’t have a team score resting on his muscular shoulders. The senior Warrior has one last shot to get to the state games – and he’ll be alone on the mat while he goes for it.

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&uot;I’m practicing hard for my last year,&uot; said Christie, who made it to regional competition for the first time last season. &uot;It’s what I’m training for.

&uot;I think most of the guys out here have done excellent,&uot; he said, indicating the rest of the Warrior matsters. &uot;I’m going to focus on doing well and doing what I have to do.&uot;

Christie, Jacob Guertin, Deron Scott, Vernell Woods, Tim Nelson, Tim Melton, Vance Barskill and Sardor Prinkolov won in River’s 36-12 defeat of Franklin in the seventh-place match of the Cape Henry tournament last weekend, in which the Warriors received the meet’s sportsmanship award.

In high school experience, Woods and Guertin are quite different; Guertin has been a Warrior for three years, while Woods only moved up from John Yeates Middle back in September. On the mats, however, the expertise is about equal; both are embarking on their first year as Warrior wrestlers.

&uot;This is the closest thing I could find to karate,&uot; said Woods, a first-degree black belt. &uot;I’m small, and I like knowing I can handle myself.&uot; At 103, the lightest class, he went 6-2 at the Cape Henry meet.

&uot;I’ve been in the band for a while, and it didn’t work out,&uot; said Guertin, at 171. &uot;I have some friends that (wrestle), and I thought I’d try it out. After my first meet, I was addicted. It’s so much fun going one on one with someone. The adrenalin rush is unbelievable.&uot; The Warriors head to Lake Taylor today for a four-way meet with Taylor, Indian River and Norfolk Collegiate. King’s Fork opens its season today at Bethel, and Suffolk’s three public schools will square off at King’s Fork on Jan. 5.

Over at the district’s newest addition, Jerome Crawford leads the newest band of brawlers.

&uot;Being in a new program has its ups and downs,&uot; said Crawford, himself a former wrestler in Atlanta. &uot;It’s great that you don’t have to re-teach the kids, but the downside is that you start from scratch. There’s a lot of preparation involved.&uot;

There’s even more so for Kodi Edwards, who’s already getting ready for football season next fall.

&uot;Wrestling helps my stamina, and it’s helped me get a little stronger,&uot; said the junior, who wrestles at 171. &uot;If I lose in wrestling, it’s all on me. If I mess up, it’s not about how everybody as a whole did.&uot;

Also a junior, Tim Dugan hopes that everyone does well – as a whole or an individual.

&uot;I’ve been mostly trying to help everyone out,&uot; said Dugan, who spent his first two high school years at Lakeland. &uot;I’m trying to help them go through the season with a minimal number of pins, and I’m working on my own moves to possibly go to regionals this year.&uot;