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Small numbers, big heart: VCHS wrestlers prepare for upcoming meets

Jan. 2—HENDERSON — Penetration steps, "crunch and cowboy," lateral drop, inside trip — despite its physicality, wrestling is highly technical.

With energy as a precious resource, it pays to be methodical rather than sporadic. It's a game of setups and takedowns.

For Vance County's high school wrestling team, that means putting in work consistently, even when no one is around to see it.

Because wrestling matches are six minutes long, it's more about spurts of energy than all-out aggression. Like most sports, speed and strength are key. But in wrestling, "mat sense" trumps all else, according to assistant coach and decorated Vance County grappler, Quincy Talley.

A young wrestler, La'Nautica Johnson asks a ton of questions — and receives a lot of coaching. Even after practice, Johnson got extra help on her moves.

With practice on the last day of winter break, the wrestling team is still struggling with attendance: only three Vance County grapplers were present for Tuesday's session.

Notably absent from practice was senior Sadarius Kearney and junior Charles Doyle. Charlotte Wortham, Johnson's normal wrestling partner, was also absent.

Vance County reviewed technique in preparation of their meet at J.F. Webb Thursday, before heading home for a head-to-head against Louisburg Jan. 10.

The Vipers took turns throwing each other to the mat as Johnson worked in with the two boys. Despite getting slammed multiple times, Johnson was all smiles during practice.

In contrast, Clarence Debnem was strictly business, remaining straightfaced throughout Coach Caroll's myriad of jokes and lighthearted comments, and leading the small group by example.

Despite the sweat equity, Vance County still has lots of work to do.

"Practice was dead," said Debnem as he took off his knee pads.

The Henderson Middle School team showed up to receive high school coaching and try to learn from the older kids.

"I'm not concerned with what's the right way and what's the wrong way. If we don't feel comfortable with it, we probably won't use it," head coach Charlie Carroll told his team.

Debnem dominated his middle-school opponents. Jermonte Young also dominated, but it's good to get reps and a tune-up ahead of a big meet.

Johnson did much better in her second live-wrestling match, garnering "oos" and laughter from the room as she threw her younger foe to the mat.

Johnson is looking to improve her performance from her last meet, where she won her first-ever varsity match at the Wildcat Invitational in Bunn.

The Vipers seemed much more seasoned compared to their middle school counterparts, but their real test will come in a couple days.

The three-hour practice culminated in explosive, aerobic training geared towards conditioning Vance County for their battles ahead.

"I'm never satisfied with the amount of work we do in practice," Johnson said. "If I want to become good, the sessions need more intensity and effort."