Fort Mill’s Josh Cizmadia, top, is one of two state qualifiers coming back to the mat this year for the Jackets.

FORT MILL – A bevy of local talent is preparing to take to the wrestling mat as the 2019-2020 season opens up this week.

                All three local teams – Fort Mill, Nation Ford and Catawba Ridge – will open their seasons this week with tri-duals. The Jackets will open at South Pointe and Nation Ford will host Catawba Ridge and Heathwood Hall.

Fort Mill

                The Jackets open the season ranked fourth in the state in 5A. Fort Mill returns two state qualifiers in Josh Cizmadia and Joshua Sturgeon. Head coach Chris Brock, who is beginning his 20th season with the team, said this year’s squad has a lot of potential, but just needs to realize it.

                “They are on the edge of getting really good and competing on the state level,” Brock said.

                Brock said Fort Mill might struggle a little to start the season as it is dealing with injuries carried over from football season, but should improve as the season progresses.

                “We will be a little shaky the first semester; the second semester, we should be able to compete,” he said.  “It is one of those years, things could go either way. The kids realize where they are. They realize they belong.”

                Fort Mill will host the Kingsley Classic and the Milltown Duals in December, as well as travel to the Foard Tiger Classic and the Wildcat Duals in Lexington over the holiday break. Their first Region 3-5A match will be at rival Rock Hill Jan. 16, with their only home region match being against Nation Ford Jan. 28.

                The region tournament will be at Fort Mill this year on Jan. 31 with the dual playoffs starting Feb. 8.

Nation Ford

                The Falcons open the season with a thin roster and a new head coach in Tony Forte. Nation Ford has about 16 on the roster and there are holes they need to fill, Forte said.

                “I got some kids I am excited about developing,” he said. “We got a good group of sophomores and freshmen that work hard.”

                Nation Ford has five seniors on the team – three of which have some good experience under their belt in Solomon Moore, Sean Grennan and Steven Franco. Forte said he feels like he can have multiple wrestlers qualify for the state tournament this season. They didn’t have any qualify last season.

                “We have a number in our head,” Forte said. “We keep telling the kids what we expect. We think it will be several.”

                Forte said his goal for the team his first season is tough to say.

                “It is hard to say it is playoffs or bust because a lot of it is to change the culture here first,” he said.

                Nation Ford will have just three home meets starting against Catawba Ridge and Heathwood Hall. They will also host a quad-dual Dec. 11 and then one region match against Northwestern Jan. 21. The Falcons are participating in several tournaments including the Ram Invitational at Hillcrest, the Bearcat Invitational in Rock Hill and the Holy Angels Tournament in Charlotte.

Catawba Ridge

                As small as Nation Ford is, Catawba Ridge is just as small in its first season. The Copperheads have just 15 on their roster and don’t have enough wrestlers for every weight class.

                “Our goal is to try and fill every weight class this season,” said head coach Scooter Weathers.

                Catawba Ridge still needs a 106-pound wrestler and has 13 of the 14 weight classes filled. With that being said, Weathers said the team is working to make the best of things.

                “We are getting better every day,” he said. “You have to crawl before you can walk. They are learning how to work.”

                The Copperheads have just two juniors on their roster in RJ Lincoln and Nathan Randall. Weathers said he feels like he can send about four individuals to the state tournament and despite it being their first year, he said the team goal is to make the dual playoffs.

                Catawba Ridge has just two home duals. The first is Dec. 17 against Kings Mountain and then a Region 4-3A dual against Camden and Fairfield Central Jan. 23. Their region tournament is Jan. 31 at Chester. The Copperheads will participate in several tournaments like the Dutch Fork Invitational, Holy Angels Tournament, Bearcat Invitational and the Parkwood Duals as well during the season.

Mac Banks:, @MacBanksFM