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Pirates poised for another solid season

Topsail’s Robert Sculthorpe (top) controls Jamel McLaughof Durham School of Arts in last season’s 2A East wrestling tournament in Hampstead. The Pirates finished among the top eight 2A teams in 2012 and are on pace for another long postseason run with a 17-3 start this season. (Photo by StarNews file photo)

HAMPSTEAD | Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. That statement certainly rings true for the Topsail wrestling team, which is once again one of the top programs in the state.

The Pirates are 17-3 on the season and are coming off a third-place finish in the Boneyard Bash last Saturday at Jack Britt High School, where the Class 2A team finished only behind a pair of 4A powers. They also have six wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in the state in their weight class.

"We have a bunch of individuals that are training hard every day to try and accomplish the best results they can," head coach Jake Pence said. "I feel like this team is one of the best teams that has wrestled for me in the 14, 15 years I've been doing this."

Topsail's past success has the potential to bring added pressure to the current members of the team, but you wouldn't know that by talking to them.

"It's not that much pressure, because we don't have wrestling in middle school, so we're still learning," said 113-pounder Taylor Webster.

Johnny Deveaugh, who ranks seventh in the state at 132 pounds, sees it more as a challenge than pressure.

"We see what they did and we just want to follow in their footsteps," he said. "We're all just trying to go out and wrestle the best we can. Maybe at the end of the season we can come up with something great."

Pence credits much of the success of the program to the families that have populated it.

"The kids have great work ethic," says Pence. "They believe in what I'm telling them. And the people in the community back us 100 percent. We have a great community in the Topsail and Hampstead area. It just so happens that the children that come to wrestle for me are the sons and daughters of the people in the community."

And as the end of the year and the state tournaments approach, Pence and the rest of Topsail community will be looking for more of the same success. Last year, the Pirates advanced to the quarterfinals of the state dual-team tournament and sent three wrestlers to the state individual tournament.

"All the hard work and all the talent we all put in over the years has really been proven this year," said Tate Correll, who ranks fifth at 152 pounds.

"Everyone expects a lot from us. We just have to rise to the occasion."

 -- By Kris Lancaster