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Zach Freeman reverses position against Brennan Clark during a wrestle-off in Vikings wrestling
practice action last week. Photo by Jamie Shell

Originally published: 2012-11-20 10:24:55
Last modified: 2012-11-20 10:26:41

Grappling for greatness: New era in Vikings wrestling brings new attitude

Jamie Shell / (

The wrestling room at Aldridge Field House is a bit busier than normal these days.

Avery High School wrestling has spent the past two weeks in preseason practice, making preparations for the 2012-13 season. A total of 27 student-athletes have turned out to join the squad, and that makes new head coach Derrick Calloway one happy individual.

"We've had a great turnout. That was one major thing I was concerned about coming into this season. We've been trying to get turned around with the kids we have on the team, and we have enough wrestlers at this point that we can field a full team," Calloway said during a practice at the high school last week. "We have every weight class covered. Going to matches and forfeiting four or five weight classes because you don't have enough wrestlers to fill the spots makes victories hard to come by."One of the primary goals that AHS wrestling has set for the season is to focus on having fun. According to Calloway, having the roster to compete in every match and working together to improve adds enjoyment to the group because of getting better both individually and as a unit.

"I want the kids that are wrestling to have fun this season. My goal coming into this season was to end the first official week of practice with the same number of kids that we started with at the beginning of the week," Calloway explained. "We reached that goal, and then some, as we started the week with 23 kids and ended the week with 26, so I was happy about that. We're working hard to make wrestling fun for these kids."

Avery has already took part in a scrimmage, traveling last week to Taylorsville to compete in a three-team scrimmage with perennial power Parkland High School and host Alexander Central. Both schools boasted more than 50 wrestlers on their teams, but Calloway noted that his team showed no intimidation or signs of backing down.

"Our kids did great at the scrimmage. I think we're so young and inexperienced that we might not know what intimidation is," Calloway said. "I know that sounds awkward, but our kids didn't care about the other schools' numbers and wrestled as hard as they could. It was really great to see the kids on the sidelines cheering for their teammates when they were on the mat, which some of the wrestlers from last season mentioned because they only had four or five guys on the roster to cheer for.

"The scrimmage helped us to see what we need to work on, and allowed us to notice the areas where we are performing well. I noticed that we learned how to lose as a team following the scrimmage, and we talked about why we lost when we came off the mat. It's great to see to see the kids starting to understand wrestling and exactly what happened in matches that kept them from being successful."

This season's Vikings has the rare distinction of having no senior wrestlers on the roster. Although the team is young, it will not stop the club from achieving what it sets out to do.

"There's no doubt that we're a young club. We're very inexperienced and wanting to do the things we wanted to do in middle school, but we're learning that those moves don't work at the high school level," Calloway added. "A move that worked against an eighth-grader won't necessarily work on a high school senior. Nevertheless, I'm excited about this group, and it's going to be a great season for us."

The theme for this year's team is "Fulfill Your Potential." Calloway explained that the slogan is more than a simple saying, but representative of goals that each individual wrestler has set for him to reach through the season.

"Whether your potential as a wrestler this year is to win two matches, or it's to qualify for regionals or make the state tournament, that's what we want to fulfill and what each individual goal is," Calloway said.

Several wrestlers returning from last year's team have emerged as leaders for this year's group. Included are Harley Rash and Zach Freeman.

"Harley is a big help. He's a great leader in the room," Calloway said. "Zach is working hard and learning the things he needs to do."

According to Calloway, Avery wrestling is extremely fortunate to have a faithful and dedicated group of parents and supporters of both the team and the newly formed Avery County Wrestling Club. In addition to team fundraising efforts, as well as contributions and outside support, the team has received new equipment and apparel to take pride in and represent AHS this season.

Avery wrestling will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at First Baptist Church in Crossnore on Wednesday, Dec. 12. The group also plans to have a barbecue dinner later in the season.

"We've received some financial support, and the support of our parents and grandparents thus far has been absolutely terrific," Calloway said. "We've received great support from sponsors in Avery County Wrestling Club, from businesses including Triple H Services and Mountain Laurel Internal Medicine. Our kids are full of pride and were really excited to get new practice gear that is made possible by the contributions of those folks who care about these kids."

Avery wrestling opened its season earlier this week with a tri-match against Asheville Christian and McDowell. The team competes this Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Old Appalachian Invitational Tournament at Watauga High School before hosting its first match of the season at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, a tri-match against East Wilkes and Draughn high schools.