Still young, Chargers getting better on the mat

Last season, the number of Cox Mill wrestlers could be counted on two hands. The team only won two meets in their entire inaugural season.

But toward the end of the year, the Chargers had a few highlights, as 103-pounder Taylor Page won the South Piedmont Conference title as only a freshman while 145-pounder John Hill qualified to the 3A state tournament.

"Coming off a rough season, I didn't expect a lot, so it was nice ending," said Chargers' wrestling coach Brad Smith.

Hill and Page are back and ready to help keep the Cox Mill program improving.

Hill said the team have made good strides.

"We're doing really good," the senior said. "A lot of us have improved and stepped up."

The Chargers already matched the number of wins from last year, starting the season 2-2. Page said that's important to him and his teammates.

"It just shows that we've improved as a team and that we're working better and harder in practice," he said.

Smith agrees, explaining his inexperienced team is starting to come together.

He explained the goal for the team remains to build cohesiveness among a group that is for the most part stepping onto a mat for the first time.

"We still need to teach some of our new guys general skills about the sport," he said. "I have a bunch of guys who've never wrestled before, so I'm still building the basics."

With so much room for improvement, Page sees this as an opportunity.

"I want to push everyone and get this team a lot better," he said.

Page, along with Hill, hope the young team can win a few conference meets the rest of the year.

The Chargers got a big boost from nearly having a full team, missing wrestlers in only a few weight classes. The 22 wrestlers Smith has on his roster is an improvement from the six the team counted on at the end of last season.

"We have a much better team spirit," said Smith.

Hill and Page have been instrumental for the program and the Chargers' progression, as they're both leaders on the team.

Smith explained that Page, who moved up a weight class to 112 pounds this year, is an aggressive wrestler.

"That's something hard to teach and is something you rarely find in underclassmen," he said. "He's done a good job."

Page has only lost one match to start off the year.

The sophomore also leads the way in practice, giving it his all on the mat and challenging his teammates to work harder.

Hill, who spent his first two seasons at Northwest Cabarrus, has also been a help for Smith.

"Last year, he was one of the only experienced guys I was coaching, so he was like an assistant coach on the mat," said Smith.

Hill has continued to do that, while getting off to a great start, being undefeated through his first 11 matches.

"It means a lot," said the 18-year-old, who has also won two tournaments so far this season. "It gives me a big confidence boost."

Smith said Hill also exhibits hard-to-teach confidence on the mat.

"I don't see John getting nervous too much ," the coach said, adding that his poise pays dividend against his opposition.

As more of the team gets used to the sport, Smith has been able to push his team harder.

Hill said that has allowed him and his fellow Chargers to build endurance.

"I can go the entire match and not even feel tired at all," he said. "That helps a lot."

Page added that focusing on strength training has also paid off for the team.

The duo have high individual goals for the remainder of the way.

"A state championship has always been a goal of mine," said Hill. "I really want to win it."

Page also has title hopes. He's ranked second in the state in his weight class by, but he said he doesn't worry about that too much.

"It just shows that I've been working hard, but I still have to prove it," the 15-year-old said. "Rankings don't really mean anything at the end of the year. Championship do."