Coast wrestlers prepare to hit the mat in national tournament

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 10:51 PM CST
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VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) -As wrestling continues to grow in Mississippi, more and more student athletes can showcase their talents on bigger stages and this year a handful of coast wrestlers are hitting the mat on the national stage.

Of the wrestlers who qualified for nationals, five are from Ocean Springs, seven are from Vancleave, and one is from St. Martin.

They say they’re more than ready to showcase their talents on the national stage and learn from some of the best in the country.

“It’s great. I love this sport,” said Ocean Springs junior Gabe Shanks. “It means a lot to me and I try and put all my work into it and that’s all I’m really focusing on.”

“Gaining the experience. I know there’s going to be a lot of tough competition and a lot of great competition,” said Vancleave junior Maison Kleist. “Even if I do fail I’ll have a lot of knowledge and learn from it and become better.”

“I feel amazing really,” added Vancleave freshman Jordan Sherrod. “I want to go up there and win some matches but I’m really going up there for the experience to see what it’s like to wrestle some of the better schools.”

Vancleave head coach David Sutherland is also heading up Team Mississippi for nationals .. he says the passion and dedication for the sport starts well before anyone steps on the mat.

“It’s neat because once kids get involved in wrestling they don’t have a choice but to dive in and commit,” said Sutherland. “You’ll either fall by the wayside or you’ll really get in and commit. It’s for your teammates, it’s for yourself.”

Ocean Springs paved the way for wrestling on the coast for more than a decade.

Greyhounds head coach Jay Snow says the sport helps build character on and off the mat and that’s what’s needed to compete at a national level.

“After you do wrestling everything else is easy,” said Snow. “It teaches you about hard work and dedication. You literally get to see what happens when hard work pays off and you also get to see what happens when it doesn’t.”

As for the wrestlers themselves they say they hope to be standing tall on the podium when the dust settles including Ocean Springs seventh grader Jaylah Anderson and St. Martin eighth grader Hannah Lindsey qualified for nationals in their first year wrestling

“It would be really cool because I’ve only been doing it for a short amount of time,” said Anderson. “In middle school it’s also co-ed so unlike here I’ll be going up against boys as well. It’s pretty important because I’m working hard and not giving up when it’s really tough.”

“I was really surprised and impressed. It really excited me when I got it and I’m really excited,” added Lindsey. “It’s a lot more competition when new people get there and it’s a lot more experience.”

As the Mississippi High School Activities Association only recently sanctioned wrestling, it’s still fairly new to the state.

But from coaches and wrestlers alike, they believe the future is bright and they’re ready to roll out the mats for years to come.

“It’ll be so much better for the sport in general to grow not just Mississippi in wrestling but also women’s wrestling in general is super small so its great to get as many people as you can and show it,” said Ocean Springs sophomore Annika Mortesen.

“The growth of the sport is so great for individuals and getting in front of as many people as we can, that’s what we have to do,” added Coach Snow.

“You can’t build a better student athlete than a wrestler,” said Sutherland. “They know how to work on their own, they know how to work on a team. You can’t build that in any other sport like you can in wrestling. We have some of the best athletes in the world in Mississippi. To see those guys on the Olympic stage or the world stage, I can’t wait to see that future but it’s got to start at the school level.”

The national tournament gets started in Virginia Beach on March 24th-26th.

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