Coming off a season that saw the Orange High School varsity wrestling team cap off a successful season with a 10th-place finish in the 3A division at the North Carolina state competition, the Panthers and head coach Spenser Poteat are facing an uphill battle for the 2019-2020 season.
Gone from last year’s roster are Levi Anderson and Avery Jenkins. Anderson finished second in the state at 145 pounds and Jenkins finished fourth in the state at 170 pounds in 2019.
Now, Poteat must find a way to replace not just those two wrestlers, but 10 others, while keeping a historically successful program competitive this season.
“We’ve got to just hopefully put trust in the hard work that we’ve done this summer and that these juniors can step up,” Poteat said. “We’ve got some freshman who are going to step into the lineup as freshmen and we had a long offseason, and we’ve got to rely on that.”
Over the summer, the team went to multiple camps, and increased its weightlifting to get the wrestlers stronger and more prepared for the upcoming season. Some of the Panthers also wrestled in tournaments to get valuable mat time they would not have gotten otherwise.
With the 2019-2020 season starting Wednesday, Poteat is expecting strong results from juniors Kessel Summers and Korbin Nevius, as well as senior Jake McBroom, who battled through injuries his first three years on the team. Beyond those three wrestlers, there may be more questions than answers to begin the season, but Poteat will remain patient with his young team.
“You try not to do things differently, but with younger teams you can’t be as hard on some guys as we’ve had before and you’ve got to get those guys used to working and doing the hard things that the upperclassmen do season round,” Poteat said.
The Panthers and Poteat have more than two weeks before their first scrimmage on Nov. 16 to audition wrestlers for different weight classes and fill out their starters. When the first meet arrives, Poteat hopes to see some of his wrestlers step up and lead the rest of the team.
While the Panthers might not finish the season with the same level of success as they had last year, Poteat is excited and positive about his team in front of the upcoming season.
Now matter how the team fares, what’s most important for Poteat and the rest of his coaching staff is helping his wrestlers improve as people.
“Everything is not just always about wrestling,” Poteat said. “You’re around these guys so much, and you spend so much time with them, that we pretty much consider ourselves a family, so you want to see them grow in all areas and all aspects of life.”