Small roster forces TJCA to shift focus
High school wrestling is a team and an individual sport and it’s a good thing for Thomas Jefferson. The Gryphons have only fielded a team of nine wrestlers this season and will have to forfeit five weight classes.
“The lack of interest is a little disappointing,” said head coach Jamie Hicks. “But I know wrestling isn’t for everybody. We are just going to have to go to the mat with the team that we have for now. We are always looking for new wrestlers though.”
With such small numbers, Hicks has shifted the attention away from dual matches and focused on individual performances at tournaments.
“We still want to win the dual matches, but it’s going to be tough when we spot the other team so many points,” he said. “I think we will be better served to focus on what we can do as individuals. If each individual improves in each match, that’s only going to help the team.”
A trio of Gryphon grapplers are primed for big seasons, senior Keaton Poole (160), junior Coty Flynn (182), and sophomore Seth McCraw (145).
“I think all these wrestlers have a chance to go a long way, to regional and maybe even state,” Hicks said. “Keaton is our only senior and he’s been here for all four years. He has improved every season and he is a real leader for this team. Coty is a young man who works so hard every day and wants to learn. Then he turns right around and teaches it to the younger wrestlers. He won 30 matches last season and he is only going to get better. Seth is only a sophomore, but it seems like he’s been here forever. You can see a lot of his brother (Will McCraw) in him, but Seth likes to use his legs more. His style is a little different too, but you can see flashes of Will when Seth wrestles.”
And he is not the only one.
“This was Will’s team last year and he taught me so much,” Poole said. “Now I have to be a leader and pass those things down.”
“That’s all part of being a family and we are a family here at Thomas Jefferson,” added Flynn. “It doesn’t matter how many team members we have, or how we do in the dual matches, or even in the individual tournaments. As long as we can form strong bonds with each other and work together as a team, this season will be a success.”
Even so, Hicks has one match circled on his calendar, Jan. 2 at Cherryville.
“We are in a pretty good situation,” he said. “Thomas Jefferson and Cherryville are the only schools with wrestling programs in the new conference. If we can beat them, we’ll be in the playoffs. It takes nine individual wins to win a match, and we have nine wrestlers. It’s something we are going to work toward. If we can do that and have some wrestlers go to regional or even state, that will be a good season.”
TJCA hits the mat on Dec. 5, as they host Chesnee in their only home bout of the season. Match time is set for 6 p.m.