The Chapel Hill wrestling team enters its third year under Marcus Harley as head coach. Harley is in the middle of a five year plan to build the program and it has been a slow ride from the start.
“The biggest thing is to get the rec program together so I can use that in place of a middle school program, which the county does not have,” Harley said. “A little exposure would be huge. We just are not there yet. We have not had that state winner yet or the ability to place in the dual meets. Once we get to that status we will draw more interest.”
Chapel Hill has a young squad this year with five freshmen and a sophomore filling out the 10 grappler team. They also have four seniors.
The Panthers are led by returning starter Malcolm Hornes. He is the only team member to place at state last year in 3A. This year he will move up a weight class, going from 145 to 152, while wrestling in 5A. Hornes finished third in the state last year.
“The biggest thing for him was to get stronger from last season,” Harley said. “We found out that last year in the state tourney. His technique is good. He is very good at shooting. He is one of those kids who is effective in choosing shots and being in the right position.”
Also returning to the team are Jamel George, Hunter Hutson and Caleb Cook. George will compete at 160 and is the opposite of Hornes. He is very strong but needs to work on his technique. Hutson is an energetic wrestler that will compete at 145. Cook will compete at 182. Harley said that all three need to work on finishing matches.
Harley’s daughter, Kelly Vereen, leads the underclassmen who have joined the team. She will wrestle at 132.
“It will be a very unique experience,” said Harley, who also coached his son Anthony Vereen two years ago. “She will have to be more brain than brawn going up against the boys. She will need to pick up the technique we teach her quickly to win matches. We have had talks and I have told her she will take her lumps. It is wonderful for young ladies to compete in the sport and I wish enough of them would compete so they had their own division.
Rounding out the rest of the underclassmen are freshmen Raymond Jones, Theron Coulter and Ryan Barrett, as well as sophomore Titus Wynn.
They are all coachable and way ahead of where I thought they would be at this time,” Harley said. “They are soaking up everything and they are already seeing the changes in their bodies as afar as increase in strength and endurance.”
Once again the Panthers will not have enough members to fill every weight class. However, Harley has set out individual expectations
“For my returners, I expect them to improve. Malcolm was the only one who made it out of the region from this group and I expect everyone to make a serious push and place in region this year,” Harley said. “For the youngsters, I want them to continue on the path of improving on the mat each week. I want them to get stronger daily and being disciplined while transforming into a wrestling mindset.”
Harley concluded that the team is not ready yet, “but we are coming.”