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Cougar wrestlers off to impressive start

Central Academy senior Quinton Plyler (top) has a record of 16-3 in the 220-pound weight class this season. Photo courtesy of the EJ

(Reprinted with Permission from the Enquirer Journal)

Central Academy’s wrestling team has solidified itself as one of the top programs in Union County over the last few years, and nothing’s changed in 2011.

The Cougars are off to a 16-0 start as one of two unbeaten teams in UC. Piedmont has a 17-0 record.

CATA coach Mike Jacobus has several new faces in the lineup, but that hasn’t stopped his team from succeeding early on.

“We’ve had some young guys, some first year wrestlers really step into the lineup and contribute,” Cougars coach Mike Jacobus said. “It’s definitely helped our dual record to 16-0. Coming into the season I was really unsure about, as far as the team, how competitive we would be. I feel like we’ve had a couple of good wins against some decent teams that were good tests. The month of January we have some of the toughest local teams with Porter Ridge, Cuthbertson and Weddington. I think those three matches will be some good competition for us and kind of tell us where we are headed.”

Four first-year wrestlers are off to fast starts for CATA, including sophomore Phil Patterson (113 pounds, 17-7), sophomore Josh Lemon (126, 16-5), junior Davonte Straing (138, 17-4) and sophomore heavyweight Jackson Price (12-5), who has filled in for former standout Will Robinson — a two-time state champion.

Those four have helped stabilize a lineup that already had a number of established winners.

Senior Jairo Velazquez is holding strong at 132 pounds with an 18-2 record and junior 145 Alex Ortiz has started with a 19-2 mark.

The biggest surprise might be the emergence of senior Nick Gagatch (pictured right in a match with South Stanley - Photo courtesy of the EJ) at 182 with a 21-1 start.

Sophomore 106 Sergio Paz and senior 220 Quinton Plyler are also off to strong starts at 21-3 and 16-3, respectively.

Jason Gulotta (195) is coming off an injury suffered during football season, but has compiled a 7-0 record since his return.

“We definitely have about four or five guys that I can depend on that have their sights set on the regional and state tournaments,” said Jacobus. “Everything they are doing right now is just getting prepared for that. It’s definitely nice to have a little experience there and everybody kind of rallies around them, especially in the dual matches. These guys have been in the program almost since it started so they have a lot of pride in what we do.

“They are helping to continue to build the program. In our fifth year I still feel like we are trying to establish ourselves and I still have all of the kids believing that we are not a well-established team yet. We need to keep proving year after year that we can win 20-plus duals or win a couple of tournaments to be a championship-caliber team.”

While the Cougars have yet to be knocked off, Jacobus knows his team will face tough competition over the next few months, including a matchup with Piedmont on Jan. 26.

The Panthers cruised to a 44-19 win over CATA last season on their way to the RRC title.

“We just have to continue to try to get 14 wrestlers out there that are competitive,” said Jacobus. “Right now I feel like I still have some kids trying to turn the corner and getting a lot of experience and mat time. They’re just not ready for the state dual competition or the regional competition.

“My big push right now is to get 14 guys all on the same page going into the state duals. We can hopefully count on a win from any of them and hopefully not have a weak spot in the line up. Right now we definitely have some young guys and they have to turn the corner and get up to the level we want them to be at to compete at the state duals.”

Central Academy is hosting it’s own dual team tournament today starting at 9 a.m.

If the Cougars can win all five of their matches today, they will be just one win away from the 100th dual team victory in the school’s history.

After this article was written, the Cougars did indeed win the Cougar Duals and are now 21-0 on the season. Congratulations Cougars!

Written by: Eric Rape, Enquirer Journal Sports Reporter
Posted: Jan 02, 2012 by Don Mace

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