Pam Pack to send seven to state championship

Published 5:40 pm Monday, February 13, 2017

FARMVILLE — Seven Washington wrestlers placed in the top four at Saturday’s eastern-regional championship held at Farmville Central. They will each travel to Greensboro on Thursday to represent the Pam Pack at the 2-A individual state championships.

Washington’s wrestling team poses with the hardware it earned for finishing second at the 2-A regional championship.

Washington’s wrestling team poses with the hardware it earned for finishing second at the 2-A regional championship.

Simeon Pope (126 pounds) and Jacob Smith (132) won regional titles in their respective weight classes. Austin Coward (138), Carson Asby (120) and D.K. Credle (145) finished as runners up. Marcus Sneed (113) and Drew Ferguson (182) also advanced past to the state championship, too.

Taking seven to the state championship is no easy feat, but coach Chris Penhollow was shooting for as many as 10. The Pam Pack had close matches from Logan Nichols and Austin Koonce that didn’t go their way.

“We should have had nine, but this is still one more than we got last year,” he said. “We’re improving. Of the 22 that finished the season with me, 18 will be back next year, along with a large group of eighth graders coming up (from P.S. Jones). Signs are pointing to another strong season.”

There are plenty of reasons to optimistic about how things will go a year from now, but the Pam Pack’s eyes are set solely on this final stop of the 2017 campaign.

The way seeding for Thursday works is that Pope and Smith will take on a fourth-place wrestler from another region. Similarly, Ferguson, who placed fourth, will face Ivan Zalaya. The Clinton representative finished atop the Mideast region.

Penhollow has stressed that while seeding matters, certain first-round matchups look more or less favorable on paper than they actually are.

“I told the guys on the way home on Saturday that once you get to the top four in a region, there’s not really a bad kid,” he said. “On paper, it looks like you’re getting a better matchup sometimes. But, Drew Ferguson is still as good as any of the 182 pounders in the state.

“A kid can show up, have an off weekend or have a sickness — like Drew did — and it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

Each of the seven traveling to Greensboro has a shot at making it onto the podium come Saturday. Penhollow believes that a strong start in Thursday’s first-round matches will be key.

“We’ve got some good matchups. Marcus Sneed has (Ryan Greenblatt), who he beat earlier in the year,” Penhollow said. “He’s feeling confident that he can show up Thursday and get that first win. That means a lot to win that first one out the gate. I think we’ve got a good shot for the majority, if not all the guys, to win that first one. … You win that first one, and they start feeling it a little bit.”

First-round matches will take place Thursday, and state champions will be crowned by Saturday. Washington has a shot at an overall team championship this weekend, too. First Flight won it last year with only five competitors.