What has been a strong season already for the Newton-Conover wrestling squad will continue Thursday when they compete at the all-day East Burke Duals.
The Red Devils are coming off of an impressive 5-0 record from last Thursday's nine-team home tournament – the Red Devil Duals – despite starting five freshmen. The squad picked up victories against RS Central (49-16), Hibriten (69-6), Challenger (82-0) and Enka (49-18).
In the championship match, Newton-Conover edged past second-ranked 2A team Piedmont. Those two teams matched up last year in the state dual team semifinals with the Panthers getting the best of the Red Devils.
"We were pretty familiar with them," said Newton-Conover wrestling coach Eddy Clark. "Our kids really wrestled well. We beat two of the kids they had ranked in the top ten of the state."
After going 5-0 in his matches during the RDD tournament, the Most Outstanding Wrestler was given to Rashad Kissler in the 215-pound weight division. Three more Red Devil grapplers also had 5-0 showings in the tournament, including Tyler Benfield in the 189-pound division, Addison Klutz in the 145-pound division and Coleman Carter in the 115-pound division.
Even though they are young, the team has found a lot of success this entire season. The victory at the Red Devil Duals places Newton-Conover at 22-2 at this point in the season with the East Burke Duals approaching on Thursday but the Red Devils will face their toughest competition of the season at the tournament in the form of fifth-ranked West Lincoln.
The two squads faced off Nov. 23 with Newton-Conover picking up the victory. Clark reflected on the team's past success in the tournament and the potential match up against West Lincoln.
"We won it last year," Clark said. "We've been pretty successful up there. It used to be a two-day tournament. West Lincoln will be there. In the latest pole, they were No. 5 in the state. So that will be a test for us. If I had to pick who would be the toughest competition, I would say West Lincoln."
With a young team and tough competition ahead, Clark is working on improving a few aspects of his team so they can carry on with their success in the future and take things to the next level.
"We are always trying to get our technique better," Clark said. "We are a young team. We have a lot of technique and skills that we need to improve upon. I never really questioned how hard our kids are going to fight. This team is going to go out and wrestle hard no matter what."
The tournament begins on Thursday at 10 a.m. at East Burke High School in Connelly Springs and features five high schools, including Newton-Conover, West Lincoln, Fred T. Foard, South Caldwell and Draughn.