With a preseason ranking of fifth in the state, the Fort Mill High wrestling team enters the 2014-2015 season with both high expectations and a couple of question marks.
Head coach Chris Brock said the ranking was a “fairly good estimate” to where his team is.
“I feel like we will be a factor in the playoffs,” Brock said. “We will have some issues up top.”
Fort Mill has holes in it lineup that it needs to plug at the 182- and 195-pound positions. Besides that, the team should be solid in the middle to lower weight range.
“I feel good about things,” Brock said. “We got four or five guys that can compete for a state title.”
The Jackets have just two seniors this year: Jake Strong, who was a state finalist last year, and Nick Gray.
Besides Strong returning, Fort Mill also has other impact wrestlers such as sophomore AJ Leitten, also a state finalist, back this year. Leitten will move up significantly this year in weight class and should be able to wrestle between 120 and 132 pounds.
Another wrestler looking to build on last year is junior John Brotemarkle, who will probably wrestle at 113 pounds, at least in the early part of this season.
Toward the top of the weight scale will be juniors Gray Hinson and Matt Neill, both who can rotate between 220 pounds and heavyweight.
Fort Mill opens its season Dec. 2 at South Pointe High School in a three-way match with Nation Ford, Lexington and South Pointe. Fort Mill and Nation Ford won’t wrestle each other, but they will both wrestle Lexington and South Pointe.
The Jackets will have four tournaments in December with the annual Southern Slam at Eastside, the Coastal Clash in Charleston and the Wildcat Duals in Lexington. They will also be hosting their own tournament, the annual Beef O’ Brady’s Invitational Dec. 12-13 at Fort Mill High.
On the other side of the holiday break, Fort Mill will have its Region 3-4A schedule to contend with and will be participating in the 14-team Falcon Invitational held at Nation Ford in January.
Regionally, Fort Mill will have to compete with defending state champion Rock Hill, ranked second to start the season, and an improved Nation Ford team, which starts the season ranked 19th in the state.