Prep Wrestling

Grappling off to a great start

New coach has Tuscola’s wrestlers moving in the right direction
By Talina Royer | Dec 04, 2012
Photo by: Dan Womack Tuscola junior Steven Bottoms, left, gets intense coaching from his head coach Mark Williams.

MILLS RIVER — It’s early, but the Tuscola varsity wrestling team is off to a great start to the 2012-13 season.
“I look forward to being a positive role model for these wrestlers,” said Tuscola first year head coach Mark Williams. “I am excited to be here, as the head coach, and am ready to get Tuscola back to a dominate team.”
While in high school, Williams was a two time state champion at Mitchell and for the past 10 years has been an assisted at Tuscola. This new endeavor will prove challenging, yet rewarding, as Williams and his coaches lead the wrestling team through the season.  
“The first week of wrestling practice is the hardest” stated Daniel Royer, who is volunteering for both Tuscola and Waynesville Middle. Royer wrestled at Chippewa Hills High School in Michigan, has been coaching at Haywood County Wrestling Club for the past three years and has helped coach at WMS for two seasons. His hope is to help the middle school wrestlers transition from the middle school level to the high school level.
Despite having only four seniors and four juniors, Tuscola has a young and very talented group, including  eight sophomores and seven freshmen.
“This team is young, but they work hard, dedicate themselves and listen to instruction,” said assistant coach Neal Ross, who  wrestled at Tuscola and lettered at Tennessee.
Coach Ross has been coaching wrestling for 13 years and is very excited about this year’s team.
Tuscola picked up valuable experience at Owen’s preseason Mat Jam on Wednesday, Nov. 14 and it showed six days later (Nov. 20) when the Mountaineers defeated Cherokee, 48-29.
A week later, Tuscola pushed powerhouse Mitchell High to the end before losing a heartbreaker, 49-26.
“Wrestling is the most difficult high school sport,” said assistant coach Eric Bottoms and a former Tuscola wrestling standout. “It requires a special individual who is committed to hard work, rigorous practices and constant weight management. All the coaches enjoy working with this young team. They are eager to learn and continue to improve”
Bottoms has been coaching judo for eight years and has been grappling in judo for 13 years, He was the 2006 and 07 national runner up.
This past weekend at West Henderson’s Falcon Frenzy, seniors Ben Womack and Clay Wightman finished third overall for the Mountaineers,, which finished 13th overall. In the JV tourney, James Gibson finished first and Zack Pottinger was second.   
The Tuscola wrestlers are seniors Skylar Morrissey, Lauren Neal, Womack and Wightman; juniors Steven Bottoms, Daniel Messer, Zac Pottinger and Jonathan Ramirez; sophomores Huston Dickens, Jimmy Fisher, Justin Hogan, Thomas Hollingsworth, Tanner Milner, Jackson Neal, Jacob Neal and Dustin Robertson; freshmen Nathaniel Carver, Hunter Chambers, James Gibson, Austin Kirkpatrick, Sam Ross and Jeremiah Royer.  
High school wrestlers have to pass a hydration test and a body fat test before they are permitted to wrestle.  As with all athletes, they also have to take the concussion pre-assessment.
For Tuscola, athletes cannot have more than two failing grades to be eligible to participate. Each head coach can set their own standards, Williams is contemplating what his expectations will be for the future. While this seems like a great deal of effort to be a wrestler, when it is all said and done, the whistle is blown and a wrestler stands before the referee, all the sacrifices and hard work are but a memory when their hand is raised in victory.