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Young Trojans on to state

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

LEESBURG -- There are those who are young at heart, and then there are those who are young with heart.

Meet the Lee County wrestling team, a group that's still too green to be this good, a team full of growing pains with a long way to grow.

Just take a look at the 10 wrestlers who have qualified for the state tournament, which begins today in Atlanta. Of the 10 Trojans, only two are seniors, and one of those is a first-year wrestler.

"We're definitely building,'' Lee County coach Phil Maxfield said.

"We were young last year, and we're still young," Maxfield added. "We had good kids coming back from a young team last year and we added a good crop of freshmen.''

More wrestlers qualified for state this year because last weekend's sectional tournament was canceled because of inclimate weather and another round was added to the state meet, which runs from today through Saturday.

The crop that's headed for the state tournament includes four Area 1-AAAA champs, and three of those are underclassmen. Sophomores Rashaud Anthony (103) and Britt Beshear (119) won area titles, and junior Zach Thompson won the 112-pound title. Danny McCray, a senior, won the 152-pound title. Heavyweight Taylor Washburn, a senior who finished third, also qualified.

Connor Cloud, a junior, was the area runner-up at 160. The rest of the group are all first- and second-year wrestlers: Sophomores Ben Graham, who was second at 145, and Maurice Worlds, who was third at 215, and freshmen Devon Yelveron (130) and Colton Grove (160) finished third in their first area tournament.

They surprised Maxfield at the area tournament.

"I was really happy the way the kids wrestled,'' Maxfield said. "They did the right thing. I can't say they didn't wrestle with heart. They had heart.''

Maxfield's youngsters were good enough to finish second in the area tournament, just eight points shy of first-place Hardaway.

"Eight points isn't a lot. That's like one match can turn that around,'' said Maxfield, who wasn't sure if his kids could finish that high. "The kids really came on and showed up.''

Maxfield's new-found optimism helps Lee County now as the Trojans head to the state tournament, and comes after a long season. Maxfield saw some wrestlers leave the program and his team also was hit with some season-ending injuries. That's why the second-place finish at the area tournament says so much about this group of wrestlers.

"We lost seven wrestlers this year,'' Maxfield said. "That's seven out of 30, or about a 25 percent attrition rate. Wrestling is a gut-check, and that's what these kids have done. We lost some (wrestlers) in the bigger weight classes, and had trouble finding guys in the bigger classes. But our small kids have big hearts.''

Lee County's first three wrestlers, Anthony (31-12), Thompson (47-6) and Beshear (39-18) have combined to win 117 matches this season, and the Trojans have a solid pair in the upper weights in McCray (43-5) and Cloud (47-11).