CLOVER -- With the season fast approaching, the Clover wrestling team is preparing young wrestlers to step into big roles.
The first competition, a Saturday's tournament at Indian Land, will teach the team a lot about itself, Head Coach Michael Fitzgerald said.
As a tune-up for the first tournament, the team hosted their annual Blue-Gray matches at Clover High School last Tuesday night. All of the Eagles wrestlers, including the young athletes and even the coach, went to the mat against each other in front of a good preseason crowd enjoying free pizza.
"It's fun. It's a good way to raise money," Fitzgerald said, shortly after wrestling against one of his seniors, Taylor Moss.
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"It's pretty fun. Not a lot of pressure but still challenging," said Moss, who has been on the team for four years.
Moss said he thought the team should be better than they were last season and that as many as four wrestlers had the possibility of qualifying for the state competition.
"We're looking very good. We'll definitely be ready for the first match," Moss said.
Fitzgerald said Moss is a key to the Eagle's success this season.
"Taylor is a big leader for us. He's a 'lead by example' type of kid," Fitzgerald said. "He's not the loudest in practice or at the matches but he does everything he is supposed to do. He's a great role model."
Fitzgerald said he has a good group of young students. Among them are two sophomore standouts, Avery Neubert and Sam Curtis, who were both only one match away from qualifying from the state championships last season.
Curtis was the freshman national runner-up for his weight class last year, competing at 171 pounds.
"I've told my kids, we are pretty close to where we left off last year in practice and in ability," Fitzgerald said. "The expectations are to be better at the end of the season than at the beginning."
The Clover home schedule is highlighted by a visit from local powerhouse Fort Mill and a senior night tilt against Gaffney in January.
The Blue Eagles will also host a tournament over the Christmas holiday that will include defending state runner-up Rock Hill, South Pointe, and teams from Tennessee and North Carolina, Fitzgerald said.
"The guys should be ready," he said.
As for Coach Fitzgerald as a wrestler, he won his lighthearted match against Moss during the Blue-Gray scrimmage. The question of whether or not Moss could have pulled off the upset in a rematch remained up in the air afterwards.
Senior Tyler Frazier answered with his opinion. "Without a doubt."