~ PVN staff report
SHENANDOAH — Despite a sophomore-heavy team that also includes two freshmen, first-year head wrestling coach Greg Martin believes that the Panthers of Page County can be competitive this winter.
“I expect this team to be very competitive,” Martin said. “We’re a young team, with just one senior, but I think we can send four or five wrestlers to the states.”
The lone senior, Will Ramos, wrestling at 285, is one of nine returning grapplers for Page County. Martin took over the program this winter after serving as an assistant for five years under former head coach Joey Soltis.
The Panthers lost last season’s state qualifier Andrew Martin to graduation. Martin earned All-District and All-Region honors a season ago. Aiden and Hager Painter also graduated from last year’s squad.
The young and inexperienced wrestling team got thrown right into the fire this year as they opened the 2022-23 season at a highly competitive invitational at Harrisonburg High School — among Class 3 and Class 4 schools — on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9-10.
Returning junior Nick Moore, wrestling at 190 pounds, won a match by pinfall and lost two others by pin, to go 1-2 in the competitive field. Likewise, sophomore Jordan Hendrick went 1-2 after pinning his opponent once and getting pinned twice.
Seven other Panthers went 0-2 in Harrisonburg.
Returning sophomore Mackenzie Painter, wrestling at 215, lost both matches by pinfall, but she faced two wrestlers that placed in the state tournament last season. Freshman Michael Shifflett, wrestling in the 138-pound class, lost both matches by a close decision. Sophomore Mason Bennett, wrestling at 132, also lost a close decision in his second match.
Despite the lack of a win, Coach Martin is pleased with how his young grapplers handled the tougher competition.
“I’m very proud of the team,” he said. “They wrestled hard, against great competition. This team has character and never once did they give up.”
The competition level doesn’t drop much when the Panthers hit the mat this week to host their first home match of the season — featuring Spotswood, Central of Woodstock, and Fork Union Military Academy — at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Page County has two more matches before the winter break — traveling to Strasburg on Wednesday, Dec. 21 and participating in an invitational at Broadway on Friday, Dec. 23.
For schedules, rosters and results, check the Bull Run District website.
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