East Gaston wrestlers aim for state titles

by Aaron Burns

MT. HOLLY – There’s an old saying in wrestling, “Champions come in pairs.”

Michael Bedard

East Gaston High’s team is out to disprove the notion that only two guys can win a title in one season.

Warriors coach Scott Goins believes he’s got three wrestlers – Jacob Grigg, Alex Ledford and Michael Bedard – with the potential to win Class 4A state individual championships in March.

Grigg, Ledford and Bedard got the season off to a good start. East Gaston, as a team, entered February with a 16-1 record thanks in large part to the trio’s success.

“They’re all working well,” Goins said. “They’re all similar (in stature) so they can practice against one another.”

Grigg often squares off against Bedard in practices. The two know each other’s moves better than anyone else, but it’s not because of repetition. Grigg wrestled against Bedard two years ago – twice.

Bedard, then a sophomore at Ardrey Kell High, beat freshman Grigg in the 2011 regional tournament. Grigg bounced back and dominated Bedard in the state tournament.

Were there any hard feelings between the two when Bedard transferred to East Gaston?

“Not really,” Grigg said. “You’d think it’s going to be awkward at first, but he’s a really good drill partner. Having him in the room is a challenge.”

Goins said some of the most competitive matches he’s seen on the mat all year were the Bedard vs. Grigg showdowns in practice.

Ledford agreed.

“You put them on the mat together and they get intense,” he said. “But they’re cool with each other off the mat.”

Grigg said this season has been fun because he’s changed his approach to the sport. Grigg’s three older brothers, Jared, Jesse and John, emerged as stars for East Gaston in their time at the school.

Jacob felt the pressure to not be the other Grigg brother, the one who didn’t win.

“Of course I want to follow in their footsteps, but just because I have the same name as them doesn’t mean I’m special,” he said. “I have to go out there and earn it myself.”

Contrary to what his records – a 52-11 mark as a sophomore and six tournament wins this season – show, Grigg believes he’s not yet shown his best work. He hopes it’ll come in the state finals.

“I’ve not shown up under the spotlight. I’ve let the crowd and the arena (Greensboro Coliseum) get to me,” Grigg said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have the best coaching and teaching. But now instead of getting psyched out before a match, I’m relaxing. It’s more enjoyable.”

Goins said he noticed a change in Grigg’s approach early in the season.

“It’s not so much any new moves or things that are traditional, ” he said.

Jacob Grigg

“The big difference is he’s settled down and become more consistent. He used to get down on himself early if he was losing in a match, and he’d just stop. Now he’s more confident he’ll beat whoever he faces.”

Bedard and Ledford share Grigg’s confidence.

“Alex had an eligibility issue last year and couldn’t finish the season, so he’s had some ground to make up,” Goins said. “People started noticing him beating people at the Tiger (Holiday Classic last year). Michael is also highly skilled. He’s one of our biggest contributors.”

Ledford was focused on winning matches from day one.

“I told coach I was going to come into this year working hard and having fun,” he said. “I want to make this year count.”

Unlike Grigg, who is a junior, Bedard and Ledford have just one more shot in the state tournament.

But their sights aren’t set on just winning titles for themselves. Goins said this year’s roster, top-to-bottom, has more potential to win dual-team matches than last year’s squad.

“We’re matching up well with a lot of good teams,” he said. “We beat West Wilkes, one of the best teams in the state, 37-33. We beat West Mecklenburg 63-0.”

However, the memorable matches will come at the end of the year, Grigg concedes.  But there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the trio’s chances of solo glory as well as team success at the dual-team tournament.

“If we do our best,” Grigg said, “I don’t think we should have a problem.”

A quick look at the Warriors’ top trio

• Jacob Grigg, junior: Ranked No. 2 in state 126-pound class according to RetroRankings.com, 45-1 overall record

• Michael Bedard, senior: Ranked No. 4 in state 120-pound class according to RetroRankings.com, 45-4 overall record

• Alex Ledford, senior: Ranked No. 5 in state 145-pound class according to RetroRankings.com, 41-7 overall record

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Reply