Jamie Pack said the first time he saw the Mount Airy Granite Bears wrestling team compete “it took longer to set up the mats than it did for them to wrestle.”
Pack said the Granite Bears only filled six of fourteen weight classes at that match against North Surry High School four years ago.
The state of Mount Airy High School’s wrestling program these days stands out in stark contrast to what Pack witnessed in 2010. Last season the Granite Bears snagged a second place finish in the state tournament, led by a trio of individual state champions and one runner-up.
Additionally, the Granite Bears beat North Surry High School this past season, a feat that, according to Pack, hasn’t happened in at least 30 years.
The progression of the Bears wrestling program didn’t happen overnight, however. It took years of time and many drops of sweat, and many individuals point toward Pack as being a force that tipped the Bears in the right direction.
For the past six years Pack has facilitated a twice-weekly practice for wrestlers seeking more mat time and additional instruction, calling his group the “Mount Airy Mat Monsters.” The product of Pack’s program was evident when the Granite Bears to0k the mat this past season.
Pack’s program runs year-round with the exception of the actual wrestling season. While Pack actively recruits Mount Airy wrestlers to show up for his extra workouts, wrestlers come from places such as Pilot Mountain Middle School and East Surry High School to be “Mat Monsters.”
The ages of wrestlers who take part in Pack’s program vary drastically, from kids barely toddling around to collegiate wrestlers. Pack said he works to make everyone that walks through the doors on Tuesday and Thursday nights better.
Pack said his initial motivation for starting the program, which meets twice a week at Mount Airy Middle School, was somewhat selfish. Pack said that he wanted his child to be part of a winning program and receive top-notch instruction.
When junior wrestler and son Cameron Pack stepped off the mats in Raleigh with a state title this season a proud father knew his work over the course of the past few years wasn’t for naught. However, the positive impact of Pack’s program din’t stop with his own son.
Cameron Pack was joined on the top spot of the awards podium by sophomore Jake Hogue and senior Tristan Mabry. Senior Landon Mumford was a state runner-up at 182 pounds and intends to wrestle at the University of West Virginia next year. Senior Andrew Moore captured third place at 195 pounds.
From Bears’ wrestling parents to journalists who have covered the Mount Airy area sports scene, most agree that Pack deserves much of the credit for the Bears’ return to greatness on the mats.
Pack, who wrestled in school, often takes the opportunity to interest his wrestlers in martial arts. Pack instructed Jujitsu for a number of years. He never misses an opportunity to show an arm bar to a young quizzical mind. Pack says that most wrestlers do well in mixed martial arts.
For some youngsters who are at the end of their wrestling careers martial arts can be a way to funnel the energy they once put into the sport into something similar, according to Pack. However, Pack warns that “once you know martial arts, wrestling will seem boring.”
Pack says the many other facets that mixed martial arts offers makes wrestling seem one-dimensional and simple after an individual knows martial arts. With that, Pack said that gaining an understanding of martial arts can make a young wrestler better.
Much like Pack’s “Mat Monsters” his interest in martial arts started with his son Cameron. Pack said that Cameron was a black belt by the time he was 9 years old. Pack saw martial arts as another way to spend time with his son.
Pack said he’s had many success stories throughout his martial arts career. In one instance, Pack said he helped a 300-pound young man lose weight, shape-up and become a force to be reckoned with in the martial arts arena.
While Pack devotes a lot of volunteer time to his wrestling club, it isn’t what pays the bills and puts food on the table. Occasionally wrestlers get a glimpse of the often barefooted Pack dressed up when he arrives at practice after a long day at work. Pack is a car salesman at Simmons Nissan. He says that selling cars is what he’s done most of his life. Additionally, Pack owned his own car dealership at one time.
For Pack it’s not good enough to help youngsters get better just on the mat. Instead, even Pack realizes there are things more important than wrestling. Pack helps orchestrate the movement of 35 to 40 kids on a “church bus” on Sundays.
Pack said that every Sunday the bus picks up children and heads to Woodland Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He said he’s gotten to know many of the youths and has even recruited some wrestlers from the church bus. Pack said he enjoys being a part of that program because he gets to see his wrestlers in another venue and on an additional day of the week.
Pack said his church-going life is important to him. “I have to thank God for where I am,” said Pack, “only he could have gotten me here.” Pack added that it has been his relationship with the Lord that has made him a better father, husband and coach.