Warriors' roster includes state title contenders in Sullens siblings, along with large group of young wrestlers
After a slow start to the season due to some illness and injuries, the White County High School wrestling team is ready to begin the grind that leads to the Class AAAA tournament in February.
The Warriors have competed in a few dual matches and one tournament so far, but have missed several events due to issues off the mat. Even head coach Patrick Lowendick was affected, battling a case of pneumonia early in the season.
Lowendick is healthy and back with the team, just in time for the meat of the team's regular season schedule. Lowendick and the Warriors have some key parts back on the roster, but they also are going to rely on some youngsters in several of the weight classes.
“We graduated a good group last year, guys that had been with us a long time,” Lowendick said. “The absence of a middle school team ( two years ago) made it hard to have the kids for a quick rebuild, but since we have that going again, it will help us get things rolling.”
The Warriors have a pair of wrestlers expected to compete for state titles this year. Junior Devin Sullens and sophomore Sidney Sullens became the first brother/sister duo to earn spots in state championship matches last year. Devin finished as the runner-up in the Class AAAA 285-pound division, while Sidney finished as the 156-pound runner-up in the state's first-ever Girls All-Classification tournament.
“It's a little different for them now, a different level of pressure,” Lowendick said. “They both have high expectations now; people know who they are now. So they have to be ready to meet those expectations.”
Devin Sullens enters the se ason as one of the top heavyweights in the state, and is ready to make a run at state title.
“Devin has looked really good so far,” Lowendick said. “He beat a state runner-up at Madison County. He completely dominated the match. He's a lot stronger physically than he was last year. He's really good.”
Sidney Sullens has been competing in the 152-pound class so far this season. Sullens will be competing against male wrestlers most of the regular season, before competing for a girls' state title in February.
“Sidney worked all summer, doing what she's always done, and she's been wrestling great so far,” Lowendick said. “I think she's 6-2 and hasn't wrestled another girl yet. She's been competing against boys, and has done well. She's really worked on developing more moves. Last year, she focused on just one or two moves; now she's working to become a more well-rounded wrestler.”
Senior Sean Wurtz is back for his final year in the program, and will start the season at 138 pounds, but will probably drop down a weight class or two by the time for the area and state tournaments.
“Sean is one of our two seniors, and he's been a part the wrestling program since he was five or six when he started in our USA Wrestling program. He's been a big time contributor and leader for us. We're glad to have him back on the mat.”
Junior Seth Stonecypher is slotted in the 182-pound spot, and has extensive varsity experience. Lowendick expects Stonecypher to step up level this year and possibly give the Warriors another state qualifier.
Bradley Minor, the team's other senior along with Wurtz, returns to the program after not competing as a junior. Minor has some varsity mat time and could fill a big role in the 195-pound division.
The Warriors will look to a group of youngsters at several spots throughout the lineup. Freshmen Charles Shelby (106 pounds), Cam Winkler (126), Elijah Nelson (138), Kane Lowery (145), Jacob Holbrook (145), Andrew Whitmire (145), and Jeb Robinson (160), and Kanyon Scarborough (285) all are competing for junior varsity or varsity slots.
Junior Hunter Holloway (120), and sophomores Michael Harris (138), Ashton Pickett (138), Caden Pinson (152), Justin Gilbert (170) are in the mix for mat time.
“A lot of these kids are definitely going to have to learn on the job,” Lowendick said about all the first-time varsity wrestlers in the lineup. “I'd like to have an experienced lineup that is ready to go, but I really like teaching technique and that's something we are having to do with so many of the (younger) kids. A lot of them have never been in a varsity match, so it's going to be a challenge. But I think it's going to be a fun challenge.”
Lowendick is already seeing progress.
“We'll get better as the season goes,” Lowendick said. “For some of them this is completely new. They are learning how to wrestle and they are learning what it takes to be a wrestler. They are trying to understand the sport. It's all part of the process.”
The Warriors have picked up wins over Towns County and Turner County so far, and have dropped matches against Madison County, Jackson County, Dawson County and Banks County. The Warriors compete this weekend at the King of the Mountain Tournament in Hiawassse.
“This will be our first tournament with a somewhat full lineup,” Lowendick said. “We'll be missing a couple of open spots, but we'll have kids competing in almost every weight classes. They are 23 teams from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, so it will be good to get on the mat and see some teams we don't see every week.”