The high school wrestling season has officially started. Camp Lejeune High School, East Carteret High School and South Brunswick High School wrestling teams came together for their first meet of the season at LHS Nov. 17.
South Brunswick, with over 30 wrestlers on their team secured two wins, beating East Carteret 60-18 and Lejeune 63-12.
"I was very pleased," said Jake Pence, coach for South Brunswick. "We didn’t have all of our starters present and had to wrestle some young guys who really stepped it up for us. Raymond Bowens showed tremendous growth and poise from last season, and Jalen Parker showed tremendous maturity trying to work on his weaknesses."
Pence said the mental game is the most important aspect of wrestling. He hopes his team grasps the basic positioning concepts, continues to have fun and finishes the season better than last year.
Lejeune, with 19 wrestlers, beat East Carteret 40-32.
James Gardiner, Lejeune’s coach, said the meet went beyond his expectations. His goals for Lejeune include academic excellence, which he believes will lead to lifelong learning and ease the transformation from childhood to adulthood.
"I’d like all the athletes to excel in the classroom – the whole team on the honor roll," said Gardiner. "In preparation for college, and to make career-ready students who are prepared properly for life after high school."
With two wins each, William Adalin, Victor Ramirez and Jackson Beatty most impressed their coach. Beatty even impressed the coaches from the other schools.
"I believe Jackson Beatty from Lejeune had the (fastest) pin of the entire meet," said Harrison Smith, coach for East Carteret. "He is a great competitor. I’m hoping he is on the podium at the end of the year. He definitely deserves it."
East Carteret has eight wrestlers on the team currently, and are expecting four more once the football season is over.
"The meet went well," said Smith. "This was the first high school match for four of our guys. Overall, it was a great experience and productive start to the season. Seeing a freshman get his first high school win is always a really big moment for the whole team. Our team scores, not having a full lineup, are not indicative of our competitiveness."
Smith said they had three wrestlers go on to compete at the state level last year. This year, he hopes for one or two more to make it. He aims to improve individual records for his wrestlers. Smith was most impressed by Landen Katz, a sophomore who has been wrestling since fourth grade.
"(Katz) has been very focused in the offseason, pushing himself to get into better shape," said Smith. "He came out (tonight) with two pins in under a minute. I’m looking forward to seeing his improvement throughout the season."
Katz impressed others at the meet as well by his sportsmanship. After pinning his opponent from South Brunswick, Katz offered some words of encouragement.
"Don’t worry about it, man," said Katz to his freshman opponent. "You did really well, just stick with it, and you’ll get it."
Lejeune’s next home match will be against Northside on Dec. 14.