The Fred T. Foard Tigers wrestling team made a quick turn around in the past three seasons. The Tigers went from a struggling team before coach Mike Carey got there in 2008 to sharing the 2009-10 Northwestern 3-A/4-A conference title with St. Stephens and Alexander Central in his second season as coach.
“I think we have a really good chance to be one of the state contenders,” senior Caleb McRorie said. “We started from nothing, and now we are one of the top teams in the state. Hopefully, we can keep going up.”
Foard wrestles Tuesday in a six-team, round-robin tournament at Jacobs Fork Middle.
The program also grew a lot heading into Carey’s third season as the Tigers wrestling coach. McRorie said the Tigers had only eight wrestlers during his freshman season in 2007. Foard now has 35 wrestlers on its roster.
One wrestler exemplifies the Tigers’ growth as a program — junior Caleb Griffin. Griffin, a junior wrestling at 112 pounds, picked up the sport two years ago and did not do well his first season. He improved by leaps and bounds leading into his sophomore year, and he is one of the Tigers’ most important wrestlers heading into the 2010 season.
“There is good people in the room, and once you start wrestling live with them, you pick up a few things from them and a few things with everyone else,” he said. “Coach gets on you, but he encourages you and makes you want to go harder for him and all your teammates.”
He attended wrestling camp at Appalachian State and wrestled freestyle with teammate with Hayden Albert. Griffin’s goal for the upcoming season: zero losses by pinfall.
Other offseason work for the Foard wrestlers included semi-weekly workouts and summer wrestling camps. Albert, who moved to North Carolina three years ago from Pennsylvania, said 22 wrestlers showed up on a regular basis during the semi-weekly offseason workouts.
“There are a lot of guys who put a lot of work into it this spring and summer, and hopefully that will make a difference when we get to January, March and February,” Carey said.
The Tigers also wrestled against Orange County, the 2009 state 3-A runner-up. Orange won back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009 with a pair of wins over Newton-Conover.
The hard work and solid finishes the past two seasons also lend themselves to high expectations for the Tigers. Foard wants to repeat as conference champions, but it also has to go through 3-A powerhouse St. Stephens to do it.
The Tigers and Indians meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 28, eight days before the Northwestern 3-A/4-A conference tournament, at St. Stephens in the Tigers’ penultimate match of the 2010-11 regular season.
“We feel like we can beat anybody on any given night,” Carey said. “If we don’t end up in the state finals, we’re going to be disappointed. I don’t know if we’re good enough to get there in the first place, but that is our expectation.”