CONYERS - For the Salem wrestling team, it was a season full of brilliant individual accomplishments, especially from senior standout Peter Yates.
The Seminoles basked in the glory of Yates' brilliance, as the senior captured his third individual state title, this time in the 145-pound weight class in Class AAAA. Yates finished his high school career with a spectacular record of 163-1.
However, besides the individual accomplishments of Yates and fellow senior Sam Ahonen, the Seminoles struggled with a young lineup this winter.
"We didn't do as well team-wise as we would have liked," Salem coach Tim Owens said. "But we had a lot of young wrestlers in the lineup."
The departures of Yates, who will wrestle in the collegiate ranks at Virginia Tech, and Ahonen were Salem's two biggest graduation loses. Ahonen finished second in the Region 8-AAAA Tournament at 152 pounds and finished in the top eight at state.
"Obviously, Peter Yates and Sam Ahonen will be our two biggest losses off this year's squad," Owens said. "They were solid all year for us, but we will also miss Stephen Cross, Bobby Nance and Jeremy McElyea. They all made big contributions to the team this year."
Next season, the Seminoles will feature a young lineup again, but Owens is expecting big things from Josh Anderson, Jarrett Cain, Jonathan Johnson, Ian Camp and Joe Morovich.
"Once again, we will be young next year," Owens said. "But many of those wrestlers got some varsity experience this year, so that should be a big help next season."
With a young lineup coming back, Owens' plan is pretty simple this offseason. It's pretty much wrestle all you can.
"I told them to get some wrestling in over the summer. Go to a camp, go to a tournament or two, wrestle with some of the local guys, but I want them to just (focus on) wrestling," Owens said. "The more they wrestle in the offseason, the better off we will be next year."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.