South Charlotte

Athlete of the week: Busy senior seeks 1st N.C. title for Chargers

Evan Rodbell stays busy.

He was a member of this year's state-champion cross country team at Providence Day. He's also the student body president.

Now the senior hopes to help Providence Day win its first ever team state championship and become only the second All-American for the Chargers.

Rodbell, 18, started wrestling in sixth grade because of his older brother, Andrew, who also wrestled at Providence Day.

"He kept kicking my butt, so I was like, 'I've got to do this, I've got to get better,'" he said.

"But he was always bigger than me, so I felt like I had to compensate with more effort."

In eighth grade, Rodbell started working out and conditioning with the varsity team. That year, the middle school team at Providence Day won the city championship. The core wrestlers from that group ushered in a new era for Providence Day wrestling.

Since coach Tommy Racano started at the school nine years ago, the program has been competitive at the state level but has never won a championship.

"We have been able to put together a solid program where we've got kids coming up from the middle school that have the basics under them and are able to take it to the next level with the instruction," he said. "Right now we're seeing that, in that those kids that were eighth-grade city champions are now on the team that has the best chance of winning the first state championship in Providence Day history, which is kind of a big deal."

Rodbell has been the top wrestler to come out of that group. He finished third in the state as a freshman and won the title as a sophomore at 130 pounds and as a junior at 135 pounds.

"It was crazy, it was a great feeling," said Rodbell about his first championship. "I'm going home, I'm holding this plaque and have a big grin on my face."

Wrestling at 140 pounds this year, Rodbell, 5-foot-7, is a favorite to win again.

"He has been the leader of the pack because he's probably the most athletic and also hardest working and (has the) best attitude of all the kids - kind of the complete package," said Racano.

Rodbell doesn't wrestle outside of school because of his other sports commitments, and he works during the summer. But, he said playing other sports actually has helped his wrestling.

"Cross country really helps me wrestle," he said. "It's cardiovascular, so it gets me in really great shape."

The Chargers have a good chance to win the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association team wrestling championship this year, but it won't be easy. Wesleyan Christian Academy and Forsyth Country Day will be their biggest obstacles, according to Racano, as will defending champion Charlotte Latin. Making it harder for Providence Day is the fact they don't have wrestlers at two weight classes: 160 and 171 pounds, meaning they can't get any points in those classes.

"That's a hurdle we have to get over, so we have to have more kids place than any other team," said Racano. "That's what it comes down to."

Rodbell, who has lost only three matches this year, also has a chance to become the second All-American at Providence Day, an honor that is decided at the National Prep High School Championships at Lehigh University. Jimmie Colavita was the first All-American and went on to wrestle at Davidson.

"I don't really think much about (All-American)," said Rodbell. "I like to set manageable goals and try to wrestle my best at each tournament."

If nothing else, he'd like to have the bragging rights. "It would be cool to win it, something I could always rub in my brother's face," he said.