Charlotte Latin poised to win another NCISAA wrestling championship
The Charlotte Latin wrestling program has had an unprecedented run of success over the past eight seasons in the NCISAA’s highest division.
After winning a state championship in the 2009-10 season, the Hawks placed fourth in the state the following season. Since they have reeled off six consecutive titles, including last year when they held off six teams who were all within 100 points.
The Hawks graduated their only two individual state champions from last year – Michael McClelland and Jack Sobel – but coach David Paige and his Charlotte Latin team have plenty of reasons to think they can make a push to possibly extend their title streak with this season’s star-studded cast.
“Much of our success has been because of the balance of our team,” Paige said. “It is not easy spreading out talent through 14 different weight classes, (but) I would use one word to describe why we have had sustained success: Culture. Our wrestling program is built on a strong culture. Culture is what has enabled us to be consistent for such a long time.”
Despite losing their only two state champions, the Hawks have a lot of talent coming back to make another title run. The scary part is this team could quite possibly be even better this time around.
Four returning seniors will provide leadership and talent to help pave the way. Ben Okel was second in the state at 113 pounds and is back after posting a 36-7 record last year. Michael Feld was second in the state at 122 pounds and is coming off a season in which he went 25-12. Sam Turner, who competed at 140 pounds and finished third in the state, was 18-10 and David Cowan was injured much of last season, but will be poised for a big year at 160 pounds now that he’s back and healthy.
Junior Kase Mermans went 25-19 at 147 pounds and moves up to 152 this year. Walker Finke, who was third in the state at 170 pounds as a sophomore last year, rounds out the returnees with his 14-7 record that should only improve this year.
The Hawks will also welcome in freshmen Buchanan Perrigo at 106 pounds, Sam House at 145 pounds and Dean Omirly at 182. Sophomores Taylor Henry will wrestle at 132 and Sam Shumate will compete at 220 while 132-pound junior Cameron Fletcher should make an immediately large impact as well.
With 11 of the 14 weight classes covered and still plenty of time for another underclassman or two to join the group of frontrunners, this Hawks team appears ready to extend Charlotte Latin’s championship streak although Paige knows it won’t be easy.
“It’s exciting to see the growth of North Carolina wrestling as a whole,” Paige said. “There has been a lot of development in the sport throughout the state in the 16 years I have been here. Like in the public schools, the independent schools have also seen improvement in the sport. Our program is very proud to have won six straight NCISAA titles. I think the two things I have concentrated on throughout my time at Latin have been helping to grow the wrestling culture and teaching our guys how to out-work their competition. If we continue to do those two things, we will continue to have success.”
With everything seemingly falling into place and Latin getting itself ready for the rigors of possibly extending their title streak to seven, Paige said he and his team loves the pressure that comes with trying to win yet another state championship.
“As a coach, I love the pressure that comes with past success. It is what drives me,” he said. “And I believe that the same is true for our team. However, the important thing is for us to remember what got us here. There is no magic potion to winning. It simply comes down to out-working your competition. As long as we do that, we will have success come February.”