CORINTH — In an orange room deep in the bowels of Corinth High School, a wrestling resurgence has been under way this season.
Led by a trio of seniors who have stuck it out through some lean years, the Tomahawks have grown from taking their lumps to dishing out some punishment of their own.
Corinth finished the Adirondack League season at 3-2 — its first winning record in the league since the 2012-13 season — and stand at 15-2 overall in dual meets.
“It’s a better year than the last few years,” said longtime head coach Dick Whitaker, whose team had gone 4-18 in the league over the previous five seasons — an uncharacteristic lull for a historically proud program.
For the Tomahawks, the biggest difference has been numbers. In a sport that requires 15 wrestlers for a full lineup, Corinth often had 10 or 11 on its entire varsity roster in recent seasons.
“It’s hard to win dual meets when you have that many guys,” said senior Conor Eversole, the Tomahawks’ 152-pounder.
“We’ve had decent wrestlers all the way through, that have been in the mix and been competitive, but not enough of them,” Whitaker said. “I probably went 10 years where I didn’t have to recruit, they just came. That’s not the case anymore.”
This season, the Tomahawks have 17 wrestlers on their roster, spread out just enough to have most of the weight classes covered. Fourteen wrestlers were working out earlier this week on the orange mats that cover the practice room floor — the rest were in review sessions during midterm exam week.
On the roster are three senior stalwarts — Eversole, Sam Tromblee and Nate Warrington — who have been with the team since they were seventh-graders. They’ve been through it all, the losses on the mat, the struggle to recruit among their peers.
“It’s hard to see a lot of really good wrestlers on a team, but still losing matches,” said Warrington, who wrestles around 182. “It’s pretty awesome now that we’re starting to win. … It’s nice to see that transition.”
“It’s really nice to actually have a full lineup, compared to the past few years where we couldn’t win a single dual meet just because of numbers,” said Tromblee, the Tomahawks’ 145-pounder. “We had the skill on the team, but we didn’t have the numbers.”
Eversole, Tromblee and Warrington are the veteran nucleus that Corinth has built around. Like their team, they have taken their lumps as they rose through the ranks. They, like their team, have turned resilience into victories. Eversole, who picked up his 100th career win last weekend, is 24-3 this season. Tromblee is 19-3 and reached the finals of every tournament this season. Warrington (24-6) earned his 100th win on Saturday, with about 80 of them pins.
“For here, that means a lot — they’ve stuck it out for a long time,” Whitaker said. “This is their senior year and they paid a lot of dues. They are doing well and they give us a chance to do well.”
Looking at the trio rolling through their drills in practice, he added, “Those three guys may not have saved the program, but they went a long ways to holding it together.”
Joining them are younger wrestlers like unbeaten eighth-grader Devlin Blanchard, who is 26-0 at 99 and 106 pounds, and sophomores John Freebern (22-1 at 113) and Alec Richards (27-2 at 138). And surrounding them are several newcomers — new to the team and the sport — who have been pleasant surprises for the Tomahawks.
“Coming in with a full team this year, it’s very exciting,” Eversole said. “Even a lot of the new kids, they battle through all the matches and don’t give up six (points), and it helps our team.”
Corinth benefited from just that when it defeated perennial powerhouse Warrensburg, 42-41 on Dec. 12. In the middle of the dual meet, 99-pounder Paul Granger — an eighth-grader and one of the Tomahawks’ first-year wrestlers — lost by technical fall, giving up five team points, instead of six for a pin. That one point was the difference in the victory, Whitaker said.
“There are a lot of little things that had to happen that night, and they did,” Whitaker added. “But that’s a great indication of how these kids work hard, so they’re prepared when they hit the mat.”
The victory over Warrensburg thrilled the Tomahawks, who said it was a long time coming against the reigning Adirondack League champs.
“For all the years I can remember, coming up through modified, we’ve never beaten Warrensburg,” Warrington said. “And for my senior year, our first league match of the season, it was awesome to come out with a win — especially because we have lots of buddies on that team — to go back and forth with that little rivalry.”
“It was crazy,” Tromblee said. “Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to happen, but now I see the team we have, and that’s why we did it.”
And the seniors have been impressed with how their younger teammates have stuck with it, worked hard and continued to improve.
“I think we’re definitely leaving Corinth wrestling in some good hands for the next couple of years, especially with the guys we’ve recruited,” Warrington said.
“It’s crazy that now it’s all coming together our senior year, it feels amazing to have the team we have competing,” Tromblee said. “It makes it all worth it.”