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Thomasville wrestlers have high hopes

In certain sports, the first round of the state playoffs is nothing more than an easy tune-up for the tough road ahead. Nothing could be further from the truth in wrestling.

Thomasville, which just wrapped up its second straight Central Carolina Conference championship and ended the regular season with a 34-3 record, will open the 2-A dual team tournament on Tuesday. The Bulldogs have put in a bid to host the first two rounds of the tournament, but they will not find out if they were selected as a host site until the brackets are released on Monday.

What Bulldogs coach Richard Herman does know, however, is that his team will have to show up ready for a battle right from the start. Unlike some sports, where conference champions face wild cards or No. 4 seeds from other leagues, the wrestling tournament sends teams directly from the frying pan to the fire. Thomasville will face North Surry, the top seed from the Northwest Conference, in the first round Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we’ll wrestle maybe the top team, or No. 2 team, in the state right off the bat,” Herman said. “That’s just the way the draw is.

“They’ve been building for this year, they’ve got five or six seniors.”

Observers would probably make the same arguments about the Bulldogs. Although Thomasville only has three seniors in the starting lineup, there is not a glaring weakness at any weight class. Senior Luke Williams (145 pounds) is 42-6 and leads the team in wins. Aaron Reeves, a junior who wrestles at 170 and 182, has the best winning percentage at 41-1. Jason Boutsady (113) is 40-4. But Herman is quick to point out, his entire lineup looks like that, which makes the Bulldogs a legitimate contender to advance very deep in the dual team tournament.

Herman is in his fifth year as the wrestling coach at Thomasville. In his previous stint, a four-year run at High Point Andrews, he considered the Bulldogs a potential powerhouse if the right coach were in place. He doesn’t blow his own horn about his coaching, but he thinks there are several factors that have moved the Bulldogs to the next level. “What makes us successful is a lot of different things, one is I coach football and I love it,” he explained. “So I’m able to get some football players out for wrestling, which they haven’t been able to do in a long time.

“And if you go back and look at when Phil Kanoy and J.C. Young and all the old coaches that won state championships at Thomasville, they did it with football players.”

Herman also emphasized the impact the program has felt from the addition of the House family — Bobby, David and Doug — to the coaching staff. Bobby just retired after a career in coaching at Ledford and East Davidson, and his sons have continued in his tradition.

If the Bulldogs are going to get back to those glory days, North Surry will prove to be a big obstacle. If Thomasville beats the Greyhounds in the opener. The Bulldogs will wrestle the winner of Wheatmore’s match with the No. 2 seed from the Catawba Valley Conference immediately after. Thomasville actually hasn’t lost a match to a 2-A team this season — the Bulldogs’ losses have come at the hands of Fred T. Foard, Southwestern Randolph and West Iredell, three of the top five 3-A teams in the state. If that trend continues, the Bulldogs can win a state title.

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or