The Granite Bears have three wrestlers closing in on a career milestone as the conference season winds down.
Mount Airy’s Jackson Blizzard became the first Bear to reach 100 career wins earlier this season, but a teammate could reach that mark as soon as Tuesday night.
Triston Mabry is a junior with 97 career wins. With a match on Friday and a tri-match on Tuesday, Mabry could become the second to make the 100-win plateau.
Jackson is Mount Airy’s all-time wins leader with 110 victories, noted Coach Steve Braune. He is 110-38 up to this point in his senior year, a winning percentage of 74.3 percent.
Right now, Triston is 97-26, Braune pointed out, so he will become the fastest in school history to reach 100 wins. His winning percentage is a remarkable 78.9 percent.
Jackson has had a remarkable four years, especially considering where the program began, but he won’t hold the career-wins title for very long, the coach said.
When Blizzard was a freshman, the Bears only had seven wrestlers in six weight classes. Without enough guys to field a full team, the Bears gave up too many forfeits and lost all 27 matches.
The next year, Braune and Michael Bodnar took over as co-coaches and immediately started recruiting more athletes to fill out the roster.
They also began scheduling more matches and tournament so that the wrestlers could get as much experience as possible.
In Jackson’s first year, the freshman had 32 matches, said Braune. Triston had 47 as a freshman, 39 last year and 37 already this year. He could finish with 140 career wins, barring injury.
Not far behind Mabry are two teammates: Shay Wilson (145 pounds) and Landon Mumford (170).
Shay is 13 wins away from 100 with a record of 87-32, said Braune. Landon is right there, too, with an 86-31 record.
There are only five more duals left in the regular season, the coach pointed out. Then if the team wins a couple of matches in the dual-team playoffs, and the wrestlers qualify for the state 1A tournament, there is an outside chance that they could get to 100 this year.
It would be difficult to do, he said, but he knows better than to count these young men out.
There are some good wrestlers in this conference and region at 170 pounds, so Landon has a tougher road, he said. Still, when Landon is focused in, he can beat anyone.
These wrestlers have worked very hard to get where they are now, said Jamie Pack, who coaches a club wrestling team that some of these Bears have been a part of in the offseason.
While coaches like himself and Braune and Bodnar would love to take credit for making these kids great, the credit really has to go to the boys for motivating themselves in practice and in the weight room, Pack said.
Pack was on Mount Airy’s wrestling team years ago with Surry Central coach Stephen Priddy and North Surry’s Eric Jessup. That group was the only bear team to win both the conference season and conference tournament title.
“This team has a chance to do that and more,” said Pack. “I think this is the best team Mount Airy’s ever had.”
Braune said the team has received a boost this year from the addition of assistant coach Cody Atkins.
Cody has helped with Pack’s club team before and has a good rapport with the wrestler, Pack said.
What’s truly impressive is that Mabry, Wilson and Mumford aren’t a lightweight wrestler, Braune said. Jackson was very good as a freshman, but of his 21 wins, some of those were forfeits because the other team didn’t have a 103-pound (now 106-pound class) wrestler.
Also, wrestlers fill out as they get older, so a smaller wrestler might not face a lot of experienced competition, added Pack.
For those reasons, freshman Jacob Hogue is off to a great start. Hogue is tied with Mumford for the best record on the team at 33-3. Of those 33 wins, eight came by forfeit.
Don’t let the weight class fool you; Jacob Hogue is the real deal, North’s Jessup said recently.
Jacob began taking martial arts classes with Eric Latza at age six, noted Pack. He has been in MMA classes and club wrestling and middle-school wrestling. He entered high school ready to go.
Of his three losses, one was a decision loss to Nathon Bautista, Surry Central, who is ranked second in the state for 2A. Another was to McMichael’s Austin Keiger (33-1 at the 3A level).
Jackson holds the career wins record now, and Triston will likely pass him next year, but he could just be holding the title until Jacob catches him as a senior, said Braune.
Blizzard and Brian Bennett are the lone holdovers from that 0-27 team. While the Bears could make some noise in the 1A playoffs next month, some fans already are looking ahead to how great this team could be next year with all the young talent returning.