Eighth graders lead Polk Middle to win, capping perfect regular season

Published 9:26 am Friday, January 19, 2024

The questions began well before the season – could Polk Middle’s wrestling team sustain the standard set by last year’s undefeated conference championship squad?

A big part of the answer to that question stood in a long line Thursday across the Wolverines’ mat.

Polk Middle saluted its eighth graders in their final home regular-season match, and the Wolverines then secured a second straight perfect regular season with a 72-15 victory over visiting Apple Valley.

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The win makes the Wolverines 14-0 entering Tuesday’s Blue Ridge Conference Dual Team Tournament. Polk will host the four-team event beginning at 4:30 p.m., with pairings to be announced.

Head coach Jerry Cox would like nothing more than to win another conference title and do so on Polk’s home floor. If that happens, much of the credit will go to an eighth-grade group that accepted the challenge of following in the shadow of the 2022-23 squad.

“They’ve been insane leaders all year,” Cox said. “Kids like (Acer and Callum Eadus), Chester (Wilson), Liam (Jackson). They put the effort in. A lot of times, for the first 20 minutes of practice, it’s them running things through because, at least for Chester and Liam, they’ve been here three years. They know the routine.

“It’s super cool to see that, when you start seeing eighth-graders starting to coach.”

Jackson and Wilson were among the winners Thursday, as were each of the Eadus twins. Acer Eadus took part in the most exciting match of the day, a back-and-forth battle at 182 pounds with Apple Valley’s Ayden Sluzzer. The match eventually required overtime, with Eadus scoring first in the one-minute period to win the decision.

Winning the first five matches and racing to a 27-0 lead, the Wolverines quickly removed any suspense as to a final outcome that capped another undefeated run. Polk Middle knows a tougher challenge will await in Tuesday’s duals, which will feature Polk Middle and Flat Rock Middle, the top two teams in the Blue Ridge Conference’s East Division, facing the top two teams from the West.

An undefeated Canton Middle team that defeated the Wolverines in a preseason match is expected to be the top seed from the West, with Bethel Middle likely the second seed and Polk’s semifinal opponent.

“We talked to the kids about not being satisfied,” Cox said. “We definitely want to hit it big next week, one more practice on Monday and then the hay’s in the barn and it’s time to go.

“The kids know what it means to themselves and to the community. Two pretty good teams coming in. Both run out of the same club (Haywood Elite). So it will be a fun environment. I think we’re ready, we’re prepared, we’re excited.”