Local middle schools are entering their second season wrestling programs and participation has grown dramatically since last year.
The combined programs are based at Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools.
The Nation Ford team is made up of seventh- and eighth-grade wrestlers from Fort Mill and Springfield Middle Schools and the Fort Mill team consists of wrestlers from Springfield Middle School and all of Gold Hill Middle.
The program acts as a feeder system into the area high schools. The Nation Ford team took on Castle Heights on Tuesday to open its season and hung in until the end before falling 42-33. The meet was not decided until the last match of the night and the kids wrestled hard.
Kerry Anthony, head coach for Nation Ford team, is thrilled with the turnout and is hoping that the program will continue to grow. Anthony is in his second season and has already seen improvements.
"It's wonderful to have so many wrestlers to pull from this season," Anthony said. "Last year we were thin and had to forfeit weight classes; this year we're fielding a full roster and have over 30 wrestlers working out each week."
In the first match of the year, Abraham Praxtor, 90 pounds, and Casey Snyder, 112 pounds, won their individual matches by pins.
Bratton Epps won a decision in the 138 pound division and team captains Blake Vandiver and Josh Driscoll made quick work of their opponents scoring first period wins. The 155-pound Vandiver needed just 15 seconds to pin his opponent and Driscoll, at 167, was just as impressive.
Nathan Brock, a 185-pounder, also pinned his opponent and pulled the Falcons to within five points. In the end, Castle Heights was too strong, but the first meet shows promise for a great second season and progress for the program.
Varsity coach Paul Richardson said he is hoping to see more wrestlers come out for the middle school program. It also gives him a head start on training these young wrestlers and have them more prepared once they reach the high school level.