Pam Pack wrestling isn’t slowing down

Published 9:44 pm Monday, December 11, 2017

Washington’s wrestling program has been like a machine these past few years. Thanks to a top-notch feeder program from P.S. Jones Middle School, there has been no shortage in talent.

Rather, the Pam Pack has been able to develop many of its freshmen as they patiently await their opportunity to crack the lineup. The result is a dominant — even by Washington’s standards — first half of the season.

Even in past years, though, there have been some hurdles the Pam Pack hasn’t been able to clear. Many of them have been in the postseason. One regular-season accomplishment it never earned was a team victory at Croatan’s Beast of the East tournament.

Well, until this past weekend.

Drew Ferguson earned first place in the 182-pound weight class after pinning Croatan’s Kyle Kort in the second period. Three others — Carson Asby, Henry Jennings and Austin Koonce — finished second in their classes. Those finals losses marked just the second and third losses of the season, respectively, for Asby and Koonce.

“The top four teams in the east were all at this tournament: us, Croatan, Dixon and Wheatmore,” coach Chris Penhollow said. There were also plenty of teams in higher classifications. “It’s a pretty good indicator of how you stack up. You can kind of see how you’re going to match up.

“The kids wrestled well. Ten of the 14 placed in the top six. It’s a huge win. Parents were excited and kids were excited, so it was a good bus ride home.”

Former wrestlers were excited about the tournament win, too. Some recent graduates came out to lend a hand for Monday’s practice. Penhollow said they couldn’t believe the team won the tournament.

Now the objective shifts to maintaining excellence against league opponents. Washington, new to the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference, hosts a quad with ECC foes on Tuesday.

The new conference seems more difficult than the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference was. Washington hasn’t lost a conference match in Penhollow’s tenure as coach. He doesn’t foresee that changing.

“It’s a stronger conference, top to bottom, but we’re pretty loaded. We don’t have a ton of holes,” Penhollow said. “We’re going to have to show up, make our weights, and go through what we do, but I don’t see us being pushed.”

Beginning conference play doesn’t mean Washington will tone down its schedule. Like in years past, Penhollow went out of his way to make sure the Pam Pack has elite talent opposite it throughout the campaign.

The idea is to keep everyone sharp as can be as the postseason rapidly approaches. One of those opportunities will come during the holiday break when Washington hosts its annual Eli Saleeby dual team tournament. It will get another shot at a Cary team that narrowly won last year.

“There’s not a lot right around here locally. That’s a credit to our kids and how hard they’ve worked,” Penhollow said.