PERRY — A host of freshmen dot the lineup of the Perry wrestling team, but the Panthers’ young stars are no mere novices.
Freshmen are expected to fill half of the 14 weight classifications when the Panthers face Woodward Academy in the Class AAA division of the GHSA state duals, which begin at 8:30 a.m. today at the Macon Coliseum. Many of them are veterans of the Takedown Club, a USA wrestling group organized by Perry Middle School athletics director Randy Moss.
“They have all been involved in our youth program for several years,” Moss wrote in an e-mail. “Mat time is everything in wrestling and the majority of our freshman class had (more than 100) matches going into their high school career. They are experienced, and they all seem to love the sport.”
Perry has freshmen at the lightest weight (103-pound Jake Parker), the heaviest weight (Matthew Long) and five weight classes in between. The Panthers expect to wrestle just three seniors today: Jacob Ennis (135 pounds); Ross Tew (145) and Javon Walker (152).
Freshmen Dillon Hendrix (130) and Luke Lineberger (140) wrestled with Moss beginning in sixth grade. Lineberger said he has participated in a pair of USA state meets. He doesn’t expect to be overwhelmed by today’s environment.
“I’m looking forward to the competition,” he said. “I want to see how good we are. It will be interesting to see how we react.”
Perry finished as runnerup to Westover in the Area 1-AAA meet on Jan. 9 in Albany. The Patriots edged Perry 41-40, and as a result, the Panthers drew Woodward in the first round.
The Atlanta private school is serious about its wrestling. The War Eagles finished third in the event last year and have placed in the top four three times in the past five years. The Area 4-AAA champions have already competed in more than 30 dual meets this year.
Perry’s wrestlers understand they’ll be facing a stepped up level of competition. But to a man — and 112-pound freshman girl Haleigh Wilson — they’re looking forward to the challenge.
“We’d like to make a statement,” Tew said. “No one’s thought much of Perry wrestling. ... We’re looking to show the improvement we’ve made as a team.”
Tew (12-1) is another of Moss’s Takedown Club disciples. He also has developed his technique under the tutelage of Perry coaches Kelvin McDavis and Torrey Howard, both who wrestled in high school at Northside.
“Conditioning-wise, we’re ready to wrestle,” Tew said. “(The coaches have) given us everything we need to know. It just comes down to the wrestlers ability to execute.”
Regardless of what happens this weekend, the future looks bright indeed for the Panthers. While a few of the wrestlers will be zoned for Veterans High when it opens in August, but nucleus of the team remains.
“I see this team growing,” Lineberger said. “We have hope in the future. We just have to work hard.”