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Final preparations: Newton-Conover, Maiden wrestlers ready for 2A State Wrestling tournament

February 23, 2011

Maiden’s Richard Kerekes, right, and Newton-Conover’s
Tyler Knopp sparr during a special practice session on
Wednesday. Both wrestlers, along with 19
others in the 2A ranks, will compete today in Greensboro
at the NCHSAA State Individual Wrestling Championships.

The State 2A Individual Wrestling Tournament begins today, as 21 local wrestlers from Bandys, Bunker Hill, Newton-Conover and Maiden will compete.

Last season, the entire tournament was two days in length, which caused some scheduling issues. Some tournament matches lasted until right around mid-night.

The new tournament schedule is three days in length and 2A teams start competition on Thursday instead of Friday.

“I’ve never been to a three-day tournament,” said Maiden wrestling coach Sean McGovern. “I’m not sure what it is going to be like. There is an added challenge of making weight three days in a row. I don’t think it is going to change things that much.”

Newton-Conover wrestling coach Eddy Clark has one concern in particular with the schedule, but is not worried about how it will affect his team overall.

“The only thing that worries me is sleeping in and laying around on Friday,” Clark said. “We are used to a lot of activity. We wrestle on back-to-back days all year. I don’t think having the tournament three days in a row will affect us.”

Both Newton-Conover and Maiden wrestlers spent Wednesday working out together on the last day of preparation for the tournament.

Maiden had two qualifiers for the state tournament in 145-pound Richard Kerekes and 160-pound Evan Spears. Kerekes won the regional championship in his weight class and is state qualified for the second straight year. Spears is a regional runner-up.

McGovern has faith in his wrestlers and is confident they will be competitive during the tournament.

“Those guys stay focused,” McGovern said. “They are used to staying focused throughout the long season. I think they will do well.”

Newton-Conover has a record 11 wrestlers heading to the state tournament. Among those is Joe Platt, a senior in the 285-pound weight class. He went to the state tournament last year and finished in sixth place.

The last two seasons, Platt (50-8) has competed at the Freestyle and Greco Nationals in Fargo, N.D, where the tournament features 24 mats. There will only be eight mats at the NCHSAA State Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.

He believes his involvement with those tournaments will be an added bonus.

“That experience helps a lot to keep my nerves calm,” Platt said. “States is a big tournament to most people, but it isn’t that big too me. I have been to bigger stadiums and venues. It doesn’t mess with my nerves as much as other people who haven’t been.”

Tyler Knopp (50-8) is another Red Devil making the return trip to Greensboro. He finished fourth in last year’s tournament.

“Going there your first time, you have so much pressure,” Knopp said. “Everyone is looking at you from the stands. This being my second year, I think I can benefit more. You just have to believe in yourself and have faith. I didn’t do that last year. I believe in myself more this year. I think I will end up doing pretty well.”

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