The few, the tenacious

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lakeland High School head wrestling coach Jamaal Jones works with standout senior 145-pounder Blade Hubbard, instructing the team during practice on Thursday.

Lakeland High School head wrestling coach Jamaal Jones works with standout senior 145-pounder Blade Hubbard, instructing the team during practice on Thursday.

Despite lack of participation, Lakeland wrestling coach optimistic

The Lakeland High School wrestling team has no abundance of participants, but head coach Jamaal Jones has optimism about the wrestlers who have turned out, both new and experienced.

In terms of size, the team will appear similar to last year’s squad, at first.

“We’re still giving up about seven weight classes, which makes it difficult for us to win,” Jones said.

Email newsletter signup

This was illustrated on Wednesday when Lakeland fell 66-15 to host Great Bridge High School and 78-0 to Grassfield High School.

But Lakeland returns some determined upperclassmen, adds similarly driven freshmen and Jones hopes to fill at least 10 weight classes by the end of the season.

Also helping the Cavaliers will be the Virginia High School League’s realignment, which Jones said will pit his team against schools of similar size with similar talent pools for conference and potential post-season matches.

“Hopefully, the competition will be more even and not as lopsided,” Jones said. “I feel positive about it.”

While the team may have a better chance at wins, the primary focus for Lakeland will remain on individual achievement. Last year, that put the spotlight on Corey Hubbard, who has now graduated. Hubbard won the district championship and had been advancing at regionals before a concussion prevented him from continuing on and qualifying for states.

Taking the leadership role and the status as Jones’ top wrestlers will be Hubbard’s younger brother, senior Blade Hubbard (145 pounds), and transfer student-athlete, junior Nick Battaglia (138 pounds).

Jones said he was basing this judgment of them “off of work ethic and practice and just how they have translated it to the match, so I’m looking at their potential.”

“They’re probably the two most experienced wrestlers that I have on the team,” Jones said. They lead by example with a no-quit attitude and also vocally, pushing their teammates to adopt the same attitude.

The coach’s goal for the season is to send perhaps as many as three wrestlers to states, but he said, “I do believe that those two are going to be a guarantee.”

He hopes to see others advance beyond the conference, as well.

“I have some kids that I believe are going to go far, but it’s contingent upon their confidence in themselves, and that’s Bruce Odom and Devin Harden and Julian Taduran.”

Odom, a junior returner, scored Lakeland’s lone non-forfeit points on Wednesday, wrestling in the 126-pound class and defeating a Great Bridge opponent via a 9-3 decision.

Harden is another junior returner who is rotating in the 132-pound class with Taduran, a junior who rejoins the team after a year off.

“If (Taduran) continues to lose the weight, he will probably end up at 120, at least that’s what we’re hoping,” Jones said.

Also returning are junior Travis Jones in the heavyweight division and senior Eric Wynne at 152 pounds. Senior Seth Rice serves as a backup in the 145-pound class.

A trio of freshmen are pulling double duty on the junior varsity and varsity squads, getting important mat time to build up experience. The group includes 106-pounder Tut Harville, 113-pounder Kevin Dale and 170-pounder Jacob Marshall.

“They’re first-timers, so I can’t really expect them to go out and give me a win against very experienced guys all the time,” Coach Jones said.

But their determination to learn has contributed to his confidence about their chances later on.

“Hopefully by the end of the season, they’ll be in a position to possibly go into the post-season, as well,” he said.

Lakeland will travel to Nansemond River High School on Wednesday for a tri-match against the Warriors and Oscar Smith High School.

Following are Lakeland’s results from Wednesday’s tri-match at Great Bridge High School:

Great Bridge 66, Lakeland 15

106-Jackson (GB) over Tut Harville (L) Pin 0:07; 113-Tanavan (GB) over Kevin Dale (L) Pin 1:38; 120-L forfeit; 126-Bruce Odom (L) over Greenleaf (GB) Dec 9-3; 132-GB forfeit; 138-GB forfeit; 145-Merrian (GB) over Blade Hubbard (L) Pin 2:47; 152-L forfeit; 160-L forfeit; 170-Jackson (GB) over Jacob Marshall (L) Pin 0:30; 182-L forfeit; 195-L forfeit; 220-L forfeit; 285-L forfeit.

Grassfield 78, Lakeland 0

106-Gillette (G) over Harville (L) Pin 0:55; 113-Williams (G) over Dale (L) Pin 2:42; 120-L forfeit; 126-Copeland (G) over Odom (L) Pin 3:11; 132-Driscoll (G) over Taduran (L) Pin 0:53; 138-Driscoll (G) over Battaglia (L) Pin 3:22; 145-Jeffries (G) over Hubbard (L) Pin 2:59; 152-L forfeit; 160-L forfeit; 170-Burrell (G) over Marshall (L) Pin 0:47; 182-L forfeit; 195-L forfeit; 220-no match; 285-L forfeit.