CAMERON — The Richmond Senior High School wrestling team opened its season against a tough Union Pines roster on Tuesday.
Head coach Andre’ Ellerbe called the first match of the new campaign a learning experience, as the Raiders suffered a 72-9 defeat.
Richmond faced a Vikings squad that appeared in the NCHSAA 3A dual team state championship a year ago, finishing as the runner-up.
The Raiders were also supposed to wrestle non-conference Southeast Guilford High School, but the team didn’t show.
“Today was a great learning opportunity for the team,” Ellerbe said. “We saw a lot of things we need to work on like keeping our head off the mat and working the moves we do in practice.
“Yes, we did lose, but our seniors went out there and did what they were supposed to do,” he added. “Two of our top seniors won their matches and we had several others who tried really hard and set a great example for our younger guys.”
The two seniors who earned victories were Jaxson Martin (145-pounds) and Urijah McDonald (285-pounds).
Halfway through the match, Martin earned a 7-4 decision over Joseph Vrabcak for Richmond’s first three points.
Going all three rounds, Martin led 2-0 after the first two-minute period before finishing the second round tied 4-4.
Making his push in the final 30 seconds, Martin earned the match-winning point with an escape. Quick on his feet, Martin scored two more points with a quick takedown, securing the win by holding Vrabcak to the mat for the last 20 seconds.
“It was a great match against a great opponent,” Martin said. “I just had to stay on my feet, stay alert and be quick. I couldn’t make any mistakes and I battled hard for three rounds.
“The team can learn from tonight by knowing we can’t keep our head on the mat and needing to be more aggressive. If we do that, we can show how dominant we can be.”
McDonald needed just 40 seconds into the first round of his match to earn a pinfall victory for six points. Facing Carter Herring, McDonald worked his opponent around the mat before pinning him in quick fashion.
“It feels good to get the first win out of the way, and it was a pretty easy pin,” McDonald smiled. “I think everybody kept fighting even though we lost. This is something we can use to learn from and get better.”
In the remaining 12 matches, Union Pines secured 11 victories by pinfall and one more via a forfeit in the 126-pounds contest.
Suffering defeats were Davin Sweatt (106), Gael Onesto (113), Kenneth Bates (120), Jayden Scott (132), Christian Sanchez (138), Naaman Perakis (152), Amir Martin (160), Messiah Shaw (170), Jackson Hamilton (182), Jordan Hamilton (195) and K’Mauri Morgan (220).
Although the Raiders didn’t get the victory as a team, Ellerbe said he was pleased to see each wrestler put forth a strong effort. With a younger roster, he said he knows it will take time to develop over the season.
“Unfortunately, our younger guys didn’t wrestle well enough to win, but they didn’t wrestle scared,” Ellerbe said. “Some of our guys were lined up against state champions, and we’ll use this to get better and work on the things we know we can do.
“We’re going to get back in the gym and fix our mistakes so we can come back up here on Saturday and try to do something different.”
The Raiders (0-1) will return to Union Pines for a multi-team tournament on Saturday.
JV Raiders collect four victories
Ahead of Tuesday’s varsity match, the Richmond junior varsity wrestling team saw four of its seven wrestlers earn victories.
Sophomore Adam Estridge started with a pinfall win in the 138-pounds match, taking just 52 seconds to defeat Tristan Payne. Also adding a pin was senior Louis Fernandez (145-pounds), who pinned Evan Thompson in the first round.
Freshman Demonte Martin added six more points with a pinfall win over Chayden Hardy in the 285-pounds bout. The JV Raiders’ final win was a major decision by freshman Braxton Martinez (160-pounds), who edged Matthew Sykes 12-4.