WINSTON-SALEM — A total of 11 Ashe County Mat Monster grapplers placed in the top four during the N.C. USA Wrestling Championships last Saturday.
The Mat Monsters were well-represented at every age level, kindergarten through sixth grade.
Sam Smith took first place in the 50-pound class in the Kindergarten/Pre-K division. Kaleb Williams and Gabe Smith each finished in third place in the first/second grade 45-pound division and 50-pound division respectively.
In the third and fourth grade group, the Mat Monsters had four athletes place in the top four. Luke Osborne took third and Aaron Peterson finished fourth in the 60-pound class. Logan Brown finished first place, beating teammate Luke Peterson to sweep the top two spots in the 90-pound class.
Montana Jaramillo finished third in the fifth/sixth grade 60-65-pound class. Matthew Peterson was third in the 95-pound class in the same age group and Jacob Pennington won the 170-pound class in the fifth/sixth grade division.
Overall, the Mat Monsters pinned more opponents than any team in the tournament.
“I want to win a state tournament. We are getting close, we are knocking at the front door,” said head coach Alex Wray. “We are one of the best teams in the state. When the Mat Monsters walk into a gym, people know we are in the house. We are a powerhouse program.”
According to Coach Wray, the team will be heading to two more state tournaments, including the North Carolina AAU Tournament coming up soon.
The Mat Monster program has steadily grown over the last few years, bringing in lots of volunteers and parents to help out putting events together and working with the youngsters on the mats as well.
“We have been blessed with great coaches who have always stressed that the abilities that these kids have come from God and constantly remind them to be thankful,” said club director Chad Phipps. “I would personally like to thank our fearless leader Coach Wray for all his time and effort. It takes a special person to give back to the kids as much as he has especially considering the fact that he doesn’t have any kids in the program. All the other coaches that have helped over the years are greatly appreciated as well such as Allan Osborne, Larry Bare, Jeremy Williams, and too many others to name.”
As they always say, you have to start them off young. The Mat Monster wrestling program gets youth wrestlers started as young as five years old and work with them all the way to the middle school where Coach Wray is currently the head coach and gets to work with them for another two years. The talent level coming through the program continues to grow, and the results are showing.
“I have been involved with the Ashe County youth wrestling program for about five years now. It has just been getting better and better. I’m happy that we are able to go down off the mountain and compete with all the elite programs in the state,” said Phipps. “We have been gradually working our way up in the rankings the past few years, but this is the first year that we have placed in the top three. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make it as far as these kids have made it and I’m as proud as I can be of them.”
Parents with children that think they would like to learn the sport of wrestling and become involved with the Mat Monsters are encouraged to learn more about the team by checking them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ashewrestling. While the High Country Youth League Wrestling events usually take place in the fall, there is usually something going on year-round with the club.
“It’s a great sport to start the little ones in because once you have wrestled, everything else is easy,” said Phipps. “It’s not just a sport that we are teaching these kids but it’s character, work ethic and a way of life that will continue to help them throughout their lives in everything that they wish to accomplish.”
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87