Mat Quest: Five area teams begin the hunt for a state title tonight

The quest to be the best on the mat starts tonight.

Five teams in the area will compete in the opening rounds of the Dual Team state championships. It will mark the first day in a week's worth of competition for many schools.

Among those competing are 2A schools Newton-Conover, Bandys and Bunker Hill.

Representing the 3A schools St. Stephens and Fred T. Foard.

"Conditioning is a big part of this sport," said N-C head coach Eddy Clark. "Bigger than conditioning is your mental preparation. We are ready. We have trained really hard all year for this. If you aren't in shape by now, you aren't going to be in shape either mentally or physically. I think we are ready in both places."

The Red Devils (37-3) are looking to get back to the state finals for the fourth time in five years. They made it to the state semifinals last year before losing to Piedmont on the last match.

Awaiting Newton-Conover in first round action will be Cuthbertson of the Rocky River Conference. The challenge will be a new one for the Red Devils.

"We have scouted (Cuthbertson) out," Clark said. "The internet brings us all together, whether you know it or not. We are going to do what we do best. We will do what we have always done. If you are doing the right things, you are going to be effective."

Bandys (22-5) will be the only team in the area that hosts a match.
The Trojans will open up competition against a North Surry team (27-4) they lost to earlier in the season. However, Bandys is 10-0 at home this season.

Trojans' head coach Sean McIntosh likes have the benefit of staying at home.

"We are excited that we get a chance to host," McIntosh said. "Hopefully, we'll get a little home team advantage. North Surry beat us earlier in the year and we didn't have a full line up then. We will have a full line up tonight. We are excited to see what we can do with this group of boys."

The last of the 2A schools in the area, Bunker Hill (24-5), will travel to take on Piedmont (31-2).

The Bears will have a tough test ahead of them. In the latest Coaches' Dual Team poll, the Panthers were ranked No. 1 in 2A and received 16-of-30 first place votes.

Fred T. Foard (27-1), the fourth-ranked 3A team in the Coaches' Dual Team poll, will travel to Mt. Pleasant to take on AL Brown (17-14) of the South Piedmont Conference.

"We understand that we have to take it one match at a time," said Foard head coach Mike Carey. "We hope to advance against AL Brown and face the winner of Mt. Pleasant and Southwest Randolph match. We can't get too caught up emotionally. If we do, we might come out flat in that second match."

Fellow conference member St. Stephens will also hit the road for an opening round match against Charlotte Catholic (14-8) of the MEGA 7 Conference.

If each of these five area teams are successful in winning their opening round matches, they must face a second team the same night to advance to the Sectional Round on Thursday.

Carey has tried to prepare his team for this long week of competition, so they can be fresh for every match they compete in.

“In Monday’s practice, we didn’t push it much,” Carey said. “We just wanted to get down to weight. You just have to keep your body and mind fresh. You have to be excited about going out there as well.”

There is the potential for CVAC rivals Newton-Conover and Bandys to meet again in the Sectional Round, if both are successful in winning their two matches tonight.

Clark believes his team shouldn't be focused much on future opponents, but try to be mindful of who they might face in the coming days.

"You try not to look ahead," Clark said. "You want 100 percent focus on the match you have next. I have looked ahead and peeked. There are a lot of state championship caliber programs, but that is what you expect."