Piedmont High School wrestling coach Todd Stokes knows that the presence of Parker Von Egidy, Dylan Nelson and Lucas Smith – who have a combined record of 143-5 this season – is sure to help their five teammates when they make the trip to the Class 2A state individual wrestling tournament at Greensboro Coliseum, which was slated to begin on Thursday, Feb. 28 and conclude on Saturday, March 2.
Stokes said he had his trio talk to the other Panthers this week about procedural differences they’ll see in the weigh-in process, the little things that can derail a wrestler from his usual routine.
But Stokes said, “I think that’s about where it ends, because you can tell them what it’s going to be like walking down the floor with a couple thousand people in the stands, but until you actually get in that situation, you can’t really describe it.”
Von Egidy (55-0 record) is the top-ranked 182-pound wrestler in the state, according to retrorankings.com, and Nelson (46-1) holds the same distinction in the 160-pound division. Von Egidy and Nelson both brought home individual titles last season, and Von Egidy is shooting for his third consecutive title. The duo agreed that going into the tournament wide-eyed can spell doom for a first-time competitor.
“Once you actually step on the mats and start warming up and look up and everyone’s yelling and everything, it’s crazy,” said Nelson. “It’s not what everyone expects. Experience has a lot to do with it. A younger kid might get up there and choke or something.”
Of course, the pressure a returning state champ feels is a bit different, noted Von Egidy, but the senior also said having a title already next to your name has its advantages, too.
“To me, it gets easier,” said Von Egidy. “There is a lot of pressure to win because you did win it last year, and if you don’t (defend your title), people are like, ‘Oh, it must’ve been a fluke the year before.’ But it’s also a little bit easier since
everyone else is a little intimidated by you.”
Smith, the state’s second-ranked 152-pounder among Class 2A competitors, went 0-2 in last year’s state tournament. Improving on last year’s performance has been all the motivation he’s needed.
“I’ve had a pretty good season so far, but I’d like to finish real strong,” Smith said. “I’d like to be up there with (Nelson and Von Egidy) as a state champ.”
The trio will be joined by five other Panthers at the state meet, including Brett Underwood (120 pounds), Dalton Graybill (170), Bryce Braswell (195), Kris Rookard (220) and Will Groves (285). Many of the aforementioned wrestlers were contributors as the Panthers won the Class 2A state dual-team championship last season. Stokes’ team was upset in the second round of this year’s playoffs, which Von Egidy said “was hard for a lot of people and we thought we were going to get back there (this season).”
Stokes said he could tell the loss has provided a little extra motivation this week as the eight have prepared for the individual tournament.
“Hopefully that carries over into this week,” Stokes said. “They don’t want to leave with that bad taste in their mouths.”