TENNERTON – Not many high school wrestling coaches have the luxury of having a returning state champion on their roster, but Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Jacob Orr is afforded that rare opportunity this spring.
Julius Hobbs won a state championship for Orr and the Bucs last year as a junior and will return for his senior season to lead the wrestling team.
“When you become the top dog in the state like Hobbs did last season winning a state title, you get a target on your back,” stated Orr. “We have let him know that. That means even though he won a state title, the training aspect of it this year must be ramped up even more. Julius really flew under the radar until last year, despite being at states all three years he has competed. It’s not going to happen this year. He just has to keep that in mind and not focus on the state tournament in April, but who is in front of him on the mat right now.”
Hobbs won the title in the 126-pound division last year, but Orr said he will move up to the 132-pound weight class this year.
Hobbs though is just one of the many talented pieces of the puzzle on the Buccaneer roster this spring.
The Bucs sent nine wrestlers to states last year and have seven of them coming back this year in addition to Hobbs.
Those state qualifiers returning are senior Breagan Pearson, juniors Alex Bennett, Luke Bohnsack, Tucker Hurst and Aidan Wilson along with sophomore Nathan Cornett.
“We knew coming back into this year that we were going to have a good, solid team,” stated Orr. “Everyone from last year, whether they placed at states or not, was not happy with where they finished. Which I think says a lot about them. When they tell you, ‘Coach I could have done better, I didn’t finish where I should have been,’ what that means is they worked really hard in the off-season and are righting the wrong they felt they had the season before.”
The Bucs also have a full roster for the 2021 season with a total of 19 wrestlers.
It’s the largest roster for Orr since he took over the program as head coach of the Bucs in 2016.
“Everybody here has bought into the process,” remarked Orr. “They know how to accomplish their goals, it’s through hard work, dedication and pushing yourself. That dynamic of it has been pretty cool. It takes the anxiety off in getting them ready because they know what they need to do to get ready.”
Orr believes he will be able to fill out each weight class with his roster.
“If it falls the way I think it will, we should be able to fill all 14 weight classes,” noted Orr. “This is the closest thing we have had to a full roster since I have been here.”
Despite being a talented squad in 2021, Orr’s Bucs are still a relatively young team with just three seniors and five juniors being on the roster.
Orr is turning to his upperclassman to help guide younger grapplers on the roster.
“We are going to rely on the upperclassmen to show the younger guys the ropes,” remarked Orr. “They need to show them how and why we do the things we do. I am going to rely on them to be an extension of the coaching staff and ask them to step up to the plate into helping the younger guys on the team.”
Orr said he feels blessed to even have a wrestling season as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on.
“When we were able to start practice a few weeks ago, it just felt like a weight was lifted off me,” said Orr. “It’s a blessing we are here and getting to have a season. What do you do with something you are blessed with…you make the most of it? It’s going to be a different type of year for sure and we are working hard trying to make the most of it because you never know when it could end. So we try to control the things we can control and that is working hard in practice.”
Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Bucs won’t engage in any big weekend tournaments this year like in season’s past, but Orr still put together a solid schedule of eight quad outings including having three of them at home against some of the best competition around the state.
“Iron sharpens iron,” commented Orr. “I don’t make a schedule to see a guy win, for us to get better at the end of the year, we have to see the toughest competition we can. If a wrestler goes undefeated in a year, I feel I have failed them because I haven’t challenged them. If someone is always winning, its hard for them to see their faults.”
The Bucs will have an old-school look to them when they take the mat this spring as Orr and his staff made the decision to move to red singlets with blue trim.
“Assistant coach Levi Bender has been in my ear for four years now about going red,” joked Orr. “It was a hard-fast no for a while, but he finally broke me. Bender’s thought process was it’s a throwback to the Cam Zopp era, who won our first state championship.”
Orr and his Bucs were slated to open their season last night at Elkins in a quad meet with Grafton, Petersburg and Elkins.
They will return to the mat Saturday with a quad at University.
2021 BUCKHANNON-UPSHUR WRESTLING ROSTER
2021 BUCKHANNON-UPSHUR WRESTLING SCHEDULE
March 3 – at Elkins quad
March 6 – at University quad
March 9 – Home quad with Wheeling Park, St. Albans and Cabell Midland
March 13 – at Parkersburg quad
March 16 – at Lewis County quad
March 20 – Home quad with Morgantown, Spring Mills and Washington
March 23 – Home quad with George Washington, Oak Hill and Musselman
March 26-27 – at Big 10 Conference Tournament at Preston
March 30 – at Elkins quad
April 10 – at Region I Tournament at Brooke
April 19-20 – at West Virginia State High School Tournament at Huntington