Fresh blood driving KFHS wrestling

Published 10:24 pm Thursday, December 4, 2014

King's Fork High School freshman Dennis Whitehead, top, wrestles in Wednesday's season-opening tri-match for the Bulldogs at Nansemond River High School.

King’s Fork High School freshman Dennis Whitehead, top, wrestles in Wednesday’s season-opening tri-match for the Bulldogs at Nansemond River High School.

The King’s Fork High School wrestling team enters the 2014-15 season with a new coach and a new dose of youthful manpower.

The Bulldogs opened their season on Wednesday in a tri-match at Nansemond River High School, facing the Warriors and Grassfield High School.

King’s Fork lost 72-12 to the Grizzlies and 62-18 to the Warriors, opponents known for fielding strong teams.

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Despite the losses, Bulldogs coach Jason Dunaway said he felt good about his team’s performances.

“We’re young,” he said. “I’ve only got one kid that’s actually ever wrestled in a real varsity match.”

The amount of inexperience has already given Dunaway a multitude of teaching opportunities.

“We’ve got a lot to work on, but we’ve learned a lot, and I think the kids will be ready by tournament time,” he said.

Dunaway has gained coaching experience at King’s Fork’s cross-city rivals, first coaching junior varsity wrestlers at Lakeland High School for two years.

For the last two years, he has been a volunteer assistant at Nansemond River and also the head coach of the Warrior Youth Wrestling Club, intended for kindergartners through seventh-graders.

“When this job became available, I actually went to (NR coach) Tripp (Seed) and (NR assistant coach) John (Bostwick) and asked both of them if they’d mind if I applied,” Dunaway said, adding that they gave their approval.

King’s Fork had one wrestler that qualified for the Group 4A state tournament last year, Aaron Hommell, who finished seventh and has since graduated.

Drawing enough wrestlers to fill a team has been a struggle at King’s Fork, but Dunaway had encouraging news.

He said, “I should be able to field a full team,” once he gets done incorporating players from the football team.

He said he realized the only way that he would get the numbers he needs is to reach out to football players.

“I sat down with (football) Coach (Joe) Jones, and we kind of came up with a plan,” Dunaway said, noting Jones’ support has been tremendous.

The JV wrestling coach, Shaka Miller, is also the football team’s offensive coordinator, which Dunaway said should help football players feel more comfortable about getting involved.

The Bulldogs’ one returning wrestler on varsity is sophomore Travius Cheeks, who is a lineman on the football team. He competes in the 285-pound weight class and, importantly, has some teammates of similar size to practice with this year.

“He should be all-state by the end of year,” Dunaway said, later noting that Cheeks brings to the team “leadership, experience, hard work in the room.”

Junior Notorious Brown is transitioning from the gridiron, wrestles in the 195-pound class and the coach sees his potential to qualify for states.

Dunaway highlighted a third potential qualifier in sophomore Xavier Ramsey, a lineman in football who wrestles in the 220-pound class.

Sophomore 160-pounder Pedro Beato transferred in from out of state, and though he had never wrestled, Dunaway said he has picked it up quickly.

The coach noted junior Aundre Henderson is an up-and-comer and should make an impact in the 106-pound class later in the season.

“By January, he should be turning the corner,” Dunaway said.

Inexperience will be the biggest obstacle that the Bulldogs will have to overcome to be successful this year, according to Dunaway.

He expects them to finish top three in the conference.

King’s Fork wrestles on Saturday at Norview High School.