The South Mecklenburg wrestling team hadnt won a conference championship since 1987.Thats nearly 10 years before Joseph Coss and Collin Stewart were born. Last year, those two helped the Sabres win the Southwestern 4A tournament championship. We have a great team this year again, said Coss, a 17-year-old senior wrestling in the 145-pound class. We lost a few seniors last year, but we have some freshmen that are coming in that are doing pretty well, and even some sophomores and juniors that are trying to shine now. The Sabres lost three senior starters from last years conference championship team. The team returns two individual conference champions in Coss and Klevar Mason (132 pounds). Junior Collin Stewart (113) also comes back after finishing third in the 2013 4A West Region tournament; he became the only Sabre to qualify for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state tournament. This season, South Mecklenburg changed conferences, moving to the new SoMeck 8. They also have a new coaching staff, with head coach Jeffrey Keiser and assistant Ryan Curtis coming to South Meck from Charlotte Country Day to replace Scott Kendrick, last years conference coach of the year. Despite the changes, the goals are the same: Win conference, make it into the state dual-team tournament and send as many wrestlers as possible to the individual state tournament.Keiser has been impressed with the team, calling them good learners and saying theyre not afraid to work.The new staff implemented a new strength program at South Meck, adding in-season weight lifting sessions several times a week. One thing I noticed is the team is significantly a lot stronger this year, Coss said. Were all pretty strong; were all in pretty good shape, and our techniques a lot better. Even though he wasnt there for last years championship, Keiser said he thinks the success has positively impacted the team. I think it gave it a big boost, Keiser said about the championship. They like that feeling. They like being the team that gets the trophy, and that just gives everybody some incentive. They really want that conference title back, and the seniors really those guys are really focused on what they want to do, and theyre just very driven. The Sabres have already won a trophy this season, taking first place at the Providence Invitational tournament. They scored 147 points to beat Providence High, Salisbury, R-S Central, Mallard Creek, North Mecklenburg, Weddington, Central Cabarrus, Anson Country and Myers Park.South Meck had three first place finishers in Blake Barber (132), Coss (145) and Louis Esposito (182); a second place finisher in Stewart (113); and two third-place wrestlers in Rufus Simmons (120) and Jacob Norby (160).That was great, just to see where we were at, said Stewart, 17. Coss and Stewart also pointed to the Sabres win over Gastonia Ashbrook as a big early win. The team is led by senior starters Coss, Mason and Esposito, but it also has a strong group of juniors in Stewart, Norby and Barber. Keiser also likes his teams depth, with wrestlers like sophomores Simmons, Seth Mann and Nathan Brown (106), and junior Jonathan Harry (145) contributing in matches and pushing teammates in practice. Winning the Providence tournament, we got points from almost everybody, Keiser said. We had guys, new guys, guys shifting weights. That was a good sign come conference tournament that, OK, these guys know how to go out and try to get a tournament win. Coss hopes the early win gives the team momentum through the season. Hopefully we can keep winning tournaments, he said. We won the last tournament, so hopefully we can win the big ones coming up and make a name for us at regionals and then at states. As well as the team has performed at the beginning of the season, Keiser thinks his team will be at its best later in the season as it prepares for the conference tournament Feb. 1.I think were in good shape, he said. I think well be a better team mid-January. My goal is mid- to end of January, thats when when were really hitting our stride.
Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013
South Mecklenburg wrestling wants to build off of last years conference title
Five to watch
• Billy McClelland, Charlotte Latin, Jr.: McClelland has already won two NCISAA state championships at the 113- and 122-pound classes.
• Ryan Keefe, Providence High, Soph.: Won the SW4A 106-pound title and qualified for states as a freshman. Won 113-pound class at the Providence Invitational.
• Danny Sardo, Charlotte Catholic, Sr.: Qualified for state tournament at 120 last year, and started this season 6-0 at the same weight.
• Joseph Coss, South Mecklenburg, Sr.: With Klevar Mason, one of two returning conference champion wrestlers for the Sabres.
• Tanner Love, Providence Day, Sr.: Won the 134-pound NCISAA title as a junior last season.
Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe
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