North Surry wrestling coach Eric Jessup is entering his 12th year at the helm for the Greyhounds. His team has won a conference championship for seven consecutive seasons and a league title in eight of the past nine years. Last season, North Surry won the 2A Midwest Regional Tournament.
However, Jessup is about to begin a unique experience in 2015-16. Nine starting seniors from last year’s Western Piedmont champions graduated in the spring and are no longer with the Hounds. A stern test awaits North Surry’s head coach as he fields the youngest team he’s ever coached, but Jessup is excited about the challenges ahead.
“We are very proud of what we did last year, but I’m very excited. It’s been fun coaching this group so far,” Jessup said. “We’re going to be young, but we have a lot of talent, and we’ve got five great seniors who have done a good job leading this team in practices here at the beginning.”
The new season starts Tuesday with a road match against North Wilkes. Four of Jessup’s five seniors wrestled for last year’s team, and were one match away from the state tournament during that season.
Seniors Austin Akres and Jacob Cavanaugh were both individual conference champions last year. Cavanaugh will be in the 126-pound weight class, while Akres competes in the 285-class.
Joining those two as returning seniors this year are Zachary Jones (120) and Austin McBride (185). Jones was an All-Conference selection last season, and McBride is a two-time recipient of All-Conference honors.
Jessup’s fifth senior is Joseph Simpson, who will be competing in the 220-pound weight class. Simpson wrestled as a sophomore, but was unavailable as a junior. Coach Jessup is excited to have him back this year for a Hound team that lacks experience.
Outside of those five seniors, 21 freshmen and sophomores round out this edition of the North Surry wrestling team.
One of the wrestlers slated to start in the Hounds’ opening match Tuesday is sophomore Kobe Slate. Jessup named Slate as a captain this season, which marks the first time that the coach has named a sophomore captain during his time at North Surry.
“We have no juniors on this year’s team, and I really want someone next season to have some experience as a captain,” Jessup said. “For this season, Kobe Slate has done everything right and deserves this. He’s busted his tail. He’s not a big talker, but he leads by example.”
Other underclassmen starting on Tuesday for North Surry are: freshmen Reid Walker (106 weight-class), Quinn Walker (113) and Luke Hauser (195); and sophomores Mackenzie Cooke (138), Sammy McMillan (152), Michael Martin III (160), Avery Simmons (170) and Ryan Mauck (195).
Coach Jessup was quick to point out that this could be a very fluid lineup to start the season. With the amount of youth on his side, Jessup will continuously challenge his reserves to crack the lineup and demand solid play from his starters with plenty of hungry Hounds waiting for their opportunity.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16