Expectations were high for Camden County High School’s wrestling team going into the traditional state wrestling championships this past weekend.
The team didn’t disappoint, winning its fourth consecutive traditional state wrestling championship and its fifth since 2012.
Camden coach Jess Wilder acknowledged his team was the favorite coming into the tournament and his wrestlers handled the pressure that comes with a successful program.
The Wildcats had 11 of 14 wrestlers place in the competition, with four winning Class 7A state championships in their weight classes.
Three of those wrestlers won back-to-back titles: Tyler Crew at 113 pounds, Nicholas Krug at 120 pounds and Brandon Orum at 126 pounds. Crew and Krug are juniors who will return next season to compete for a third consecutive state championship.
Myles Starke also claimed a state title in the 182-pound weight class. Wilder said Starke’s win was a bit of a surprise. He defeated a wrestler who has accepted a scholarship to one of the military academies.
The team had three second-place finishers: Tyler Dahigren at 132 pounds; Raydan Wilder at 145 pounds and Michael Gibson at 160 pounds. Nathan Orum took fourth place at 106 pounds; William Vincent took fifth place at 152 pounds; Jamie Hill placed fifth at 220 pounds and Javonte Graves took sixth place at 195 pounds.
Wilder said the strategy coming into the tournament was for his wrestlers to pin their competitors in the early rounds to accumulate more points so the team could build a lead as they advanced in the tournament.
“In the later rounds, they just had to worry about winning,” he said.
The team loses eight seniors, five of them starters, but have nine of the 14 wrestlers who competed in the state championships returning next year. The team has depth at each weight class, meaning the competition will be fierce for wrestlers to make the staring lineup next year.
“Ultimately, they work year round for the 14 positions,” he said.
Surprisingly, the team’s success doesn’t have students eager to try out for the team. Many incoming freshmen are already committed to playing other sports and most never try out for the team.
Instead, Wilder said he looks for students in the hallways who aren’t playing other sports, and more of those he recruits quit than stay.
“We look for kids who haven’t gotten an identity yet,” he said. “It does surprise me and it’s disappointing. It’s definitely a struggle.”
Another challenge the team faces is the constant loss of wrestlers who move when one or both of their parents serving at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay get reassigned to another base. Wilder said he lost five of the 12 freshmen from his team this season.
Some of the wrestlers who have moved have won state championships at their new schools, he said.
Three wrestlers from Glynn County also finished high in the tournament.
Brunswick High wrestler John Cano placed third at 285 pounds and Jamir Brown finished in fourth place at 195 pounds. Glynn Academy wrestler Jaquarius Middlebrooks placed third in the 182-pound weight class.