After a wildly successful season last year, Pisgah wrestling has brought most of the band back together.

The Bears had six wrestlers qualify for states last year, two of which won individual State Championships at their weight class. Most teams would figure to be losing a boatload of seniors talent after a year like that. Pisgah, however, returns four of its six qualifiers, including one champion.

“It’ unreal,”said head coach Ryan Gibson. “I’ve never had this many kids coming back that have done so well at the state tournament in our room. Usually kids will be very successful and they graduate. Usually they place at State and they’re a senior. To have that kind of caliber kids back in our room just makes everybody around them better, and they make each other better when they wrestle each other.”

The Bears are bringing back senior Brandon Riggs, who won the State title at his weight class, senior Lane Mease, who finished fourth in the state at his class, Louis Mehaffey (fourth in the state) and Lucas Whitted (state qualifier).

Having four players who have reached that level of success and know what it takes should set the tone all season for the younger players to join them in helping this year’s team reach similar heights.

“Those will be the leaders for sure in the practice room and out there on the mat,” Gibson said. “I feel good about it. They’ve worked hard in the offseason, the whole team but especially those guys that had some success last year that worked hard all offseason. I feel like those four that are back will be strong leaders in our room, pushing kids in practice and just being vocal leaders. So I think the makeup of the team is very strong.”

Having coached wrestling in Milltown for 13 years, Gibson has a good idea of how to build a strong foundation for any team coming into a new season.

He knows that if he focuses on making sure the players build close relationships with one another, that will make them want to succeed for each other and the wins will come naturally with that.

“We really build relationships in our practice room and we focus on a team aspect,” Gibson said. “Just by us doing that and and the guys building the relationships with each other, they grow into a family and it becomes more about them wrestling for each other than it becomes about them wrestling for me or anybody else. And that’s extremely important; they need to be competing for each other. When they’re doing that, they make each other better in the practice room. They have more successes and they see more games.”

Rather than setting specific goals for what they want to see on the mat this season, the Pisgah staff will instead set goals for the wrestlers to grow on and off the mat, and allow that to help them reach their personal goals.

“I just want them to compete hard,” Gibson said. “It’s more about personal gains for the kids. I make the kids set goals, and of course mine are that we need to build strong relationships. We need to graduate good men. We need to get them ready for life by teaching them hard work ethics. And if they apply themselves with those goals that we set as coaches, then all the cool accolades come with it. We set our standards high.

“Obviously the ultimate goal is for the team to win a state championship as a team. That’s obviously the big goal — to get through Thursday night in the state duals, place high in the regions and those types of things. We want to focus on building the relationships and then we don’t have to sit there and say the goal is this or that. And then if we as coaches set our goals the way we want the kids to act, then it makes a huge difference.”

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