For the past few years, Southern Nash always has been in position near the top of the standings, after the first day of the regional individual tournament.
This year, coach Eddie Coble hopes that position can turn into a good finish.
Considering the Firebirds just completed the best dual team season in school history, they have the wrestlers to stick around late.
“We’ve always gotten guys to the semifinals,” Coble said. “We’ve just been overmatched when we had to go against the upper-tier guys. That’s where you earn a lot of your points - in the semis. ... We’ve got to put a couple of guys, three or four, in the finals.”
The NCHSAA 3-A Eastern Regional individual wrestling tournament begins at 4:45 today at Rocky Mount High School. The two-day event will conclude Saturday. The start time for Saturday’s action is 9 a.m.
The first round and quarterfinals action will take place tonight. Semifinals, which will being around 10 a.m., and finals will be held Saturday.
For Southern Nash and other contenders, Rocky Mount High, Jacksonville and West Brunswick, the goal is to be wrestling deep into Saturday.
“I really feel this year, we have a team that can compete and be in the top four,” Coble said. “We have a lot of good teams in our region.”
Of the four Big East conference schools represented this weekend, the bulk of the wrestlers will be wearing red or gold.
Southern Nash has 12 wrestlers competing this weekend in each weight class except 160 and 182. Rocky Mount qualified 13 wrestlers, just missing out on a qualifying heavyweight.
Nash Central qualified three wrestlers, while Northern Nash will send 10 wrestlers, including nine underclassmen. The Knights are just hoping to build for next year.
“That’s what we are counting on,” Northern Nash coach Corey Mercer said. “Just for them to take something very positive out of it so we can make a push for next year.”
The Firebirds’ best chance for a regional champion comes at the lower weights, but each comes with a hurdle. Cody Thorne is seeded fourth at 113 pounds but will have to beat Big East Conference champion, Wilson Fike’s, Zovek Chapa, to make the finals. Jordan Decosse will have to beat Jacksonville’s Tyler Ross if he makes the finals at 126 pounds. Ross beat Decosse in the dual team competition last week.
At 152 pounds, Jacoby Benjamin could face conference rival Joseph Cooper of Rocky Mount in the semifinals.
“That’s why you wrestle,” Coble said. “You don’t know what will happen. We’ll see what happens.”
Rocky Mount’s Alex Knight is the top-seeded wrestler at 145 pounds, and after having lost only once this year, he is a favorite to repeat as region champion. Teammate Keyad Coley, the top seed at 195, is also a favorite.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com