Lejeune High School wrestling head coach Jim Gardiner describes Stephen Mainz, Keegan McDonough and George Vrachnos as humble and dedicated.
Three Devil Pups traveled to the Greensboro Coliseum last Friday morning, not knowing what reality awaited them on their trip to the state championship, but all three had very successful weekends on the mat.
Vrachnos, at 152 pounds, accomplished what most senior wrestlers dream of, taking the state title.
Stephen Mainz placed third at 106 pounds in the state championship. He is a freshman who came very close to becoming a state champion.
McDonough finished in fourth place at 145 pounds.He may not have won a medal, but fourth best in the state is an outstanding performance, and he also earned the praise of his opponents.
McDonough lost 5-2 to Jordan Todd of Rosewood High School in the second round. However, Gardiner said that Todd went up to McDonough after that match and told the Lejeune senior that McDonough’s reversal on him was the first time in two years that anyone had completed such a move on him.
The humility of these three wrestlers is evident as they pushed the team all season. Finishing in the top four of the state takes an extraordinary amount of work.
All three are children of active-duty service members or veterans. They displayed high energy at practices and made sure they supported their teammates.
As a team captain, Vrachnos led by example. The 17-year old wrestler provided a spark for the team, which one would never guess because he is such a soft-spoken individual.
Gardiner said Vrachnos wrestled against the best in the state across all school-size classifications and never let a loss affect his attitude.
The wrestlers on this team deserve all the credit they are given. But, let’s not forget about these coaches. Lejeune High School assistant coaches Brett Becklund and Blake Peek, both Marine officers, drove this team to another plateau. Want to talk about dedication? Becklund brought his family with him to the state championship, as they watched the matches from the stands.
These Devil Pups needed guidance on the mat, and they sure got it in 2019. It was a symbiotic relationship among wrestlers and coaches throughout the season. The coaches spoke and the wrestlers listened, stepping up their games on the mat afterwards.
If one wants to talk about a passionate coach, then the name Gardiner makes it on the top of that list. He holds his student-athletes to the highest standards — as he should.
Then there are the parents, who traveled all across the state to watch their children wrestle. The team mom, Andie Skillings, was unbelievable in assisting with logistical matters to help out Gardiner.
With this sort of dedication, it’s obvious that the Devil Pup wrestling program is building in the right direction. Vrachnos is one of many state champions to come from Lejeune High School.
Editor’s note: Sportside with Sokol is a weekly commentary series providing readers with a range of information about sports. Facts not attributed are purely the opinion of the writer.