Cavs take different paths to regionals

Published 7:20 pm Monday, February 7, 2011

From left, Chase Rice, Lance Smith and Trey Freeman were the three Lakeland wrestlers to finish in the top four of their divisions at the Southeastern District Tournament at Grassfield Saturday and advance to the Eastern Region Tournament. Rice won the district title at 130 pounds and has a 35-5 record this season.

Lakeland senior Chase Rice was the top seed and expected to win his 130-pound class Friday and Saturday at the Southeastern District Wrestling Tournament at Grassfield.

He didn’t disappoint, going undefeated through three matches for his first district championship and to reach the Eastern Region Tournament, this coming Friday and Saturday at Oscar Smith.

Lakeland’s Trey Freeman and Lance Smith unexpectedly qualified for the regional tournament, with Freeman placing third in his 125-pound class and Smith finishing fourth at 140 pounds.

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The surprise didn’t come from what Freeman’s or Smith’s record or seeding was, but rather from their paths to this point in the wrestling season.

Freeman left the Cavalier team last June after three years on the varsity team. It was for “personal stuff,” Freeman said.

“I hadn’t been in a mat room since (June) when I came back two weeks ago,” Freeman said.

“The main thing was, the coaches have invested a lot of time in me. I thought, if I have the opportunity and I can come back, why not?” Freeman said.

Smith’s senior wrestling season nearly ended before it started.

In September, Smith and his father were in a car accident on Manning Road as another driver ran an intersection, hit and flipped the Smith vehicle. Lance’s shoulder was injured. Initially, the season looked lost for Smith.

Smith has rarely practiced this season and wrestled in a little over half of Lakeland’s matches. He wears a brace around his left shoulder for matches. Because of limited practice and conditioning time, Smith’s dropped from his previous weight, where he wrestled in the 160-pound class, down to 140.

For Smith and Freeman, making regionals for the first time in their senior seasons is equal parts sweet and ironic.

Injuries cost Smith postseason success in previous years.

“It’s kind of weird,” Freeman said. “The years before this, I’d be at practice or working on conditioning four or five hours a day and I never made it out of districts.”

Freeman was back on the team for only a few matches before the postseason started. Smith, though he certainly wanted to, didn’t wrestle a full schedule either.

“We had to sort of pick and choose when Lance would wrestle all year,” said Lakeland head coach John Bostwick.

It was a balance between keeping Smith sharp and keeping his shoulder relatively healthy. There’s been no such thing, Smith said, as having his shoulder at 100 percent or pain-free. It was aggravated after day one of the tournament Friday.

“The next day I just had to fight through it,” Smith said.

Rice, Lakeland’s new district champ, fought past some adversity during the district tourney.

Chase’s brother, Colin, who wrestles at 135 pounds, won his first two matches before suffering a concussion in his semifinal. Colin had to be taken to an emergency room.

Chase made it through his semifinal match Friday night and won his final Saturday.

“He’s an intelligent wrestler. He’s smart. He knows how to do what he needs to do to win,” Bostwick said.

“We tell him he doesn’t have to force anything. He knows you don’t have to get a pin to get your hand raised. If you win on points, that’s fine, that’s perfect. In the postseason especially, the whole objective is to advance,” Bostwick said.

Three wins in the district tourney takes Rice’s record to 35-5 this season.

“I felt a lot of pressure seeded number one. I was the guy everyone expected to win and I felt I had to live up to it,” Rice said.

“This week (regionals) will be different. I’m not the top seed. I won’t have anything to lose,” Rice said.

Since returning to wrestling, Freeman feels the same way. At the same time, “the goal is always to come in first,” Freeman said.

Eastern Region Wrestling Tournament qualifiers

Name, school – weight class, finish in Southeastern District Tournament

  • Nick Garland, Nansemond River – 112, third
  • Trey Freeman, Lakeland – 125, third
  • Chase Rice, Lakeland – 130, first
  • Lance Smith, Lakeland – 140, fourth
  • Demetrius Gray, Nansemond River – 152, third
  • Matt Hommell, King’s Fork – 160, second
  • Geordan Cross, Nansemond River – 215, second
  • Eastern Region Tournament – Friday and Saturday at Oscar Smith High School