EMORY, Va. – Amherst County High School graduate Josh Brooks had a lengthy chat with Emory & Henry wrestling coach Pete Hansen last summer.
At the end of the talk, Brooks made his commitment to join the first wrestling team in school history.
“Right after that conversation, I put in a lot of work trying to get this team started,” Brooks said.
The debut of E&H wrestling finally came Wednesday at the King Center.
While Averett University earned a 57-0 decision behind five forfeits, the Wasps were focused on the big picture.
“It’s hard to explain what this night feels like, but I had every hope that it would happen,” Brooks said.
Brooks won a regional title en route to a state runner-up finish as senior in high school. He was among the most impressive E&H competitors Wednesday, before falling 11-4 in the 197 pound weight class.
“I’ve practiced and practiced, worked to keep the hopes high for the team, and tried my to push the guys to their limits,” Brooks said. “We’ve only had 12 days of real practice, and Averett has had months. Coach Hansen is doing great things here.”
Hansen said the season opener for E&H was about much more than wins and losses.
“The stress that went into this first night was tremendous, but to have that weight off our back is nice,” Hansen said. “I think we came out a little flat, and I think that was due to all the stress of getting everything set up and the guys wrestling for the first time in the history of the program.”
Freshman Austin McBee (Shelbyville, Tenn.), Chilhowie freshman Ethan Hughes and junior football standout Donovan Pinnix all won exhibition matches for E&H as 285 pounds. Pinnix, who won his match with a takedown at time expired, was a three time state wrestling tournament qualifier in North Carolina.
“There was lot of stuff going on tonight for all our guys, but I expect us to show more this weekend,” Hansen said.
E&H will compete in Saturday’s Star City Classic at the Salem Civic Center, before wrestling at Ferrum on Jan. 20.
“As these guys get more matches under their belt, they will look a lot different,” Hansen said. “Averett has an established program and we’ve only been practicing a couple weeks.”
Brooks said the potential and vision of E&H wrestling is limitless.
“The main purpose of this season and program is to build wrestling in Southwest Virginia and give hope to kids that they can wrestle at Emory & Henry,” Brooks said. “We love the sport and we want to help make it grow here and around the region.”