Player of the Week: ‘Silent leader’

Published 6:06 pm Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nansemond River junior 285-pound wrestler Caleb Repko (top) wrestles against Tyler Fain of Indian River en route to a 5-2 win. Repko was also victorious against Dante Freeman of Oscar Smith on the same night to begin what became a 7-0 week for him, pushing his season record to 17-2.

NRHS depends on Repko to come through

Nansemond River High School junior Caleb Repko, a wrestler in the 285-pound weight class, has been dominant individually and as a closer for his team this year.

After he went 7-0 last week — improving his season record to 17-2 and helping to run the team’s record to 17-8 — he received 516 votes to become the Player of the Week.

On Jan. 2, Repko faced two wrestlers who had pinned him last year. He had never defeated Donte Freeman of Oscar Smith, but this time Repko pinned him in one minute and 18 seconds. Then, he went on to defeat Indian River’s Tyler Fain on a 5-2 decision.

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“It felt good to beat them both in the same night,” Repko said.

Repko has had to play catch-up this season while recovering from a torn ligament in his elbow sustained during football season. His success on that Wednesday night and the week overall showed him doing what he needs to do to win, he said — “listening to the coaches and working hard and getting in shape, coming back from not wrestling in the beginning of the season.”

NR head coach Tripp Seed explains that 90 percent of the time he wants his wrestlers to be on the bottom once they leave the stand-up position. It creates an opportunity for easy points if the wrestler can get out and reverse the opponent. Repko’s movement on bottom was key to his wins against Freeman and Fain.

“On feet, heavyweight, they don’t do a lot, because they’re so big, trying to move around, but once he got on bottom, if he keeps moving like that, nobody’s going to hold him down,” Seed said.

Repko finished off the rest of the week with pins against wrestlers from Tabb, Hopewell and New Kent and won on forfeit against Thomas Dale and Brentsville District.

Repko held a 63-22 career record after last week and has been wrestling since the eighth grade. His career on the mat started at Nansemond River when Bryant Bowden, offensive line coach for NR’s football team, suggested wrestling in the off-season as a way to get into better shape.

“And my parents had always been trying to get me to wrestle, but I was just like, ‘I’ll wrestle whenever,’” Repko said. “I never really got into it. And then Coach Bowden just took me right over here and made Tripp come out here and talk to me. He was like, ‘Just come in,’ and ever since then I’ve been wrestling.”

Repko’s father, John, was also a wrestler, like many in the family, and Caleb counts on him for ardent support.

“He comes to all my matches,” he said. “He didn’t get to watch a lot of my sports when I was younger, because he’s in the Navy and he’s always out to sea. Now, he comes to every single match and takes pictures and is always talking to me before I go out there.”

Repko’s motivation on the mat is fueled by support from family, coaches and friends like NR juniors Karin Kleps and star running back Latrell “Vegas” Sandifer.

Support means a lot in a sport with such an intense focus on individual performance, and Repko also holds a uniquely pressure-packed role in determining the team’s fate during a dual meet.

“Since I’m mostly the last wrestler, a lot of times it comes down to my match,” he said. “Like we’re losing by four (points), and if I get a pin, we win.”

“If a dual meet comes down to Caleb winning, I have a lot of confidence that he can win a match for us,” Seed said.

Seed especially praised Repko for how he has shaped the team and this season.

“He’s been one of the silent leaders on the team,” he said. “He doesn’t say a lot, but his actions do.”


Following are this week’s Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week nominees:

  • Taylor Berard, sophomore for Nansemond-Suffolk swimming — She recorded a personal record and qualified for states in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 27.56 seconds on Friday night. In the same meet, she also made the qualifying time in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing in 1:01.31.
  • Ed Drew, senior forward for Nansemond River basketball — He earned his 12th and 13th double-double games of the season. Against Indian River, he had 23 points, 11 boards and three blocks. Against Grassfield, he had 21 points, 13 boards, three blocks and two steals, despite foul trouble.
  • Byron Taylor, senior small forward for King’s Fork basketball — He posted 22 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, five steals and three blocks after Coach Worrell called for someone new to step up against Deep Creek. This built on his solid nine-point, eight-rebound, five-assist and two-block performance against Lakeland.
  • Jaquan Yulee, freshman guard for Lakeland basketball — He continued his emergence as a leader for the Cavaliers with 14 points and 15 rebounds in an intense showdown with King’s Fork. He again led his team with 21 points to go with seven rebounds in a win against Hickory on Friday.

Vote by 7 p.m. Wednesday by sending an email with the subject “Player of the Week” to You can also vote on our Facebook page and on the Suffolk News-Herald homepage.

Next Sunday, we’ll feature the readers’ choice in a story on the sports page.

Spread the word.